Spain and India started the FIH Nations Cup as the two prohibitive favourites for the title and throughout the tournament have gone from strength to strength, coming up against opponents with different playing styles and strategies. No opponent however, has been able to vanquish the two top ranked teams in the tournament, who edged past their opponents in the semifinals today, to set up a mouthwatering clash in the finals tomorrow with the title and the opportunity to qualify for the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023-24 up for grabs!
Spain won the first semifinals of the day, withstanding incredible pressure on their goal, but holding firm to narrowly defeat Japan 1-0, making it 4 straight hours of hockey played in the FIH Nations Cup without conceding a single goal!
India then played Ireland in the second semifinal and trailed for much of the game, despite dominating possession and territory, as Elizabeth Murphy had a stellar game in the Irish goal. India finally managed to find a late breakthrough that sent the game into the penalty shoot-outs where captain Savita showed why she is rated so highly in the world of hockey, by limiting Ireland to just 1 goal from 5 shoot-out attempts, to seal India’s spot in the finals.
Earlier in the day Italy and Korea won in the 5-8 place classification matches against South Africa and Chile respectively, to set up a 5th place match tomorrow, while South Africa and Chile face off in the 7th place contest.
All teams will be back in action tomorrow for the final day’s play in the FIH Nations Cup. To see the match schedule for tomorrow, click here.
Match 1: Italy vs South Africa 2-0
The Italian defense has made a name for itself at the Nations Cup for being remarkably difficult to break down and South Africa found out first hand just how much pressure the Italian defense can withstand without conceding.
Italy scored the first goal of the game early as both teams were still finding their feet in the game. A great run from the right by Sara Puglisi set up a shooting opportunity for Ivanna Pessina whose shot was not the best, but trickled through between the legs of the South African keeper. For most part of the rest of the game, South Africa were the better team in attack, but Italy were even better in defense, intercepting and tackling with perfect timing to frustrate the young South African team.
Italy then found a great opportunity on a counter-attack as Federica Carta and Lara Oviedo combined down the left wing with Oviedo received the ball in plenty of space in the South African circle, and her vicious shot could not be saved by the South African keeper, who has had a stellar tournament overall. Italy held on to the 2-0 lead and repelled all South African attempts of finding even a consolation goal in the final minutes. Italy will now play in the 5th place match tomorrow, while South Africa will play in the 7th place match.
Mercedes Pastor was awarded the player of the match for her phenomenal defensive display and said: “Happy but a little surprised to win this award, because it was a great team win. It was important to keep the defensive momentum going after the last game against Spain and now we will aim to finish as high as possible tomorrow.”
Match 2: Chile vs Korea 0-1
Chile and Korea are two teams that prefer to maintain their defensive structure and play on the counter-attacks, so the clash between the two teams was expectedly a highly tactical affair that was settled by a moment of brilliance from Yujin Lee, who scored her first ever international goal in the final quarter of the game. Chile’s attempts at an equalizer were unfruitful as the Korean defense kept their composure and discipline and registered their first win in the tournament.
The flow of the game was quite smooth as the teams traded phases of dominance throughout the first three quarters. The better attacking chances fell to Chile, especially from the penalty corners, but Korean keeper Eunji Kim was brilliant for them throughout and gave them the opportunity to win the game late on, by keeping the score at 0-0.
Yujin Lee’s goal came as a result of a brilliant run by Eunbi Cheon who carried the ball out of the back with remarkable fluidity and set up the chance for her team to catch Chile out on the counter. Lee’s shot on the reverse went across the body of Chile keeper Natalia Salvador, who tried to save a shot to her right with her left glove and missed, allowing Korea to take the lead that they would hold on to till the end.
Goalkeeper Eunji Kim was awarded the player of the match and said: “Good team performance overall today and happy to get our first win. We will stick to our strengths tomorrow too and hope to close out the tournament with another win.”
Match 3: Spain vs Japan 1-0
Spain came into the semifinals clash against Japan as the favorites having shown great form throughout the tournament, especially in defense, having not conceded a single goal through the group stages, and they kept up their incredible defensive run, shutting out Japan and winning a closely fought contest 1-0.
Spain started the game on the front foot and got the goal they were looking for through Sara Barrios. The drive through the Japanese defense by Florencia Amundson was crucial in setting up the scoring opportunity for Barrios.
After getting the goal however, Spain played the rest of the game slightly on the back foot, maintaining their defensive structure, and seeking out counter-attacking opportunities. Japan grew into the game more and more as they looked for an equalizer, but Spain’s discipline in defense was incredible once again, as not only did they stop every Japanese attempt at getting a shot on target, they also managed to withstand all the pressure without conceding a single penalty corner throughout the game!
Spain are now through to the finals to be played tomorrow, and await the result of the second semifinal between India and Ireland to find out which team they will face in it. Japan will play the losing team from the second semifinal in the bronze medal match.
Sara Barrios was awarded the player of the match and said: “Our defense has been really good throughout the tournament and we did well again today. For the finals I think we will once again rely on staying strong defensively and I am sure more goals will come.”
Match 4: India vs Ireland 1-1 (Shoot-out: India 2-1 Ireland)
India came into the semifinals on a 3 game winning streak looking to join Spain in the finals for a chance to win the title at the inaugural FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022, and the chance to qualify for the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023-24, and they will get that opportunity after edging Ireland in a closely fought encounter, that required penalty shoot-outs to separate the two teams.
India were the dominant team in terms of possession and territory throughout the game, but for much of the game Ireland were the team in the lead, which they grabbed from their first counter attacking opportunity in the game, in the dying seconds of the first quarter. India kept pushing in search of an equalizer as the game was played primarily in the Irish half, but Irish keeper Elizabeth Murphy was in outstanding form, pulling off one incredible save after another to deny India.
India received 11 penalty corners in the game, but Murphy managed to pull off save after save to deny them, with some flicks from Gurjit Kaur seeming destined to disturb the net. Murphy was finally beaten in the 45th minute from a penalty corner taken by Udita, as a flat shot by the Indian defender bounced just over her stick. India kept pushing for a winner, but Murphy would not be beaten again, and the teams headed for a shoot-out.
Indian keeper Savita who had precious little to do in the game, stepped up for her team and pulled off 3 saves, including a penalty stroke, in the shoot-out to give India a shot at the title in the finals tomorrow against Spain, while heartbroken Ireland, will face Japan with a chance at winning bronze.
Navneet Kaur was awarded the player of the match and said: “I am thankful for the player of the match award, but I think it belongs to Savita today for that incredible performance in the shoot-out. It was a difficult game against Ireland, especially conceding early in the game, but we kept fighting and got the win I think we deserved.”
FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022
16 December 2022 Results
Result: Match 1
Italy 2-0 South Africa
Player of the Match: Mercedes Pastor (ITA)
Umpires: Vilma Bagdanskiene (LTU), Ymkje van Slooten (NED), Magali Sergeant (BEL-video)
Result: Match 2
Chile 0-1 Korea
Player of the Match: Eunji Kim (KOR)
Umpires: Ana Faias (POR), Durga Devi (IND), Vilma Bagdanskiene (LTU-video)
Result: Match 3
Spain 1-0 Japan
Player of the Match: Sara Barrios (ESP)
Umpires: Mariana Reydo (ARG), Kristy Robertson (AUS), Ymkje van Slooten (NED-video)
Result: Match 4
India 1-1 Ireland (shoot-out: India 2-1 Ireland)
Player of the Match: Navneet Kaur (IND)
Umpires: Xiaoying Liu (CHN), Junko Wagatsuma (JPN), Ana Faias (POR-video)