There was nothing to separate England and hosts Argentina after 70 minutes of play as they battled to a 1-1 draw in the Bronze Medal Match of Argentina Hockey World League at Tucumán, but England reigned supreme in the resulting penalty shoot-out, winning it 4-2, to take a brilliant victory over Las Leonas on home turf.
Helen Richardson-Walsh, Alex Danson, Susie Gilbert and Sally Walton all scored and with Maddie Hinch, once again brilliant in goal, England claimed the bronze medal from the world number one side. Maddie Hinch was named goalkeeper of the tournament. This makes it three out of three for Hinch in 2013, who was also named keeper of the tournament at the Investec World League, TriFinance EuroHockey Championships and now the Argentina World League Final.
Speaking after the game England Captain Kate Richardson-Walsh said, “Playing Argentina, in Argentina, has always been one of my favourite experiences across my career. The atmosphere is just amazing and I’m very proud that we were able to stand up to that pressure tonight, and still play our game with that amount of noise going on! Every game against Argentina is an open game, there’s always lots of attacking chances for both sides. We were set a new tactical challenge by Jason [Lee] today and I think we took it on board well. Picking yourself up after a defeat like yesterday’s [3-0 against Australia], both emotionally and physically, is so tough, but I’m really proud of how the team played tonight. We are definitely learning and growing as a squad all the time.”
Before the game Ashleigh Ball received flowers to mark her 100th England and GB combined appearance.
England had a dream start to their bronze medal encounter with Argentina as they found themselves 1-0 up in the fourth minute. Laura Unsworth persisted with a 50/50 ball against Rocio Sanchez Moccia who, under pressure, put the ball into her own goal after hitting the ball twice on the reverse stick volley. The Own Goal was initially awarded, but following a review the decision was made to credit the goal to Laura Unsworth, which marks her first England goal.
At 1-0 up England found themselves under a sustained period of pressure for much of the first half as Las Leonas powered forward. In the same stubborn fashion as it has done all week, Captain Richardson-Walsh’s defence stood strong, but in the 32nd minute a dangerous crossed ball from Argentina took a cruel deflection off Sally Walton’s stick into goal and the score was levelled at 1-1 as the sides went in for the break.
The second half saw England enjoy a lot more possession and they came close with efforts from Alex Danson and Susie Gilbert, but there was no way through for either side and after 70 minutes of hockey the score remained tied at 1-1.
Helen Richardson-Walsh, Danson, Gilbert, Kate Richardson-Walsh and Walton lined up for the impending penalty shoot-out. Richardson-Walsh, Danson and Gilbert all scored, but Kate Richardson-Walsh fired her effort just wide of Succi in Argentina’s goal. With Hinch saving brilliantly from Marino and Gomes Fantasia England found themselves 3-2 up and it was left to Walton who stepped up and calmly slotted the ball home through the legs of Succi to give England the victory and another brilliant bronze.
Speaking after the game England youngster and FIH Talent of the Year (U21) shortlisted athlete, Lily Owsley said, “We knew as a squad it was a matter of picking ourselves up after last night’s defeat. We were all so gutted with that result, but to come back tonight and get the bronze medal, playing against some of the best players in the world, and the host nation, is just amazing and I’m so proud.”
England’s men will hope to emulate the women’s performance in their World League Final which takes place from 10-18 January in India. Head Coach Bobby Crutchley’s squad for the tournament will be announced on Wednesday 11 December.