It was mission accomplished for four women’s teams as the USA, Spain, Germany and Belgium successfully secured their places in Paris by winning their respective semi-finals at the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024 in Ranchi, India and Valencia, Spain on Thursday.
Losing semi-finalists Japan, Ireland, India and Great Britain will still have a chance to qualify if they can win their respective bronze-medal playoffs.
And while they may have already booked their Olympic tickets, there is still work to be done as the USA will take on Germany in the final of the tournament in Ranchi on Friday and Spain will play Belgium in Valencia on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in the men’s FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024 in Muscat, Oman, Germany, New Zealand, Great Britain and Pakistan took one step closer to Paris by booking their places in the semifinals with victories on Thursday.
It was crunch day in Ranchi as two Olympic places were up for grabs for the winning semi-finalists as the USA took on Japan and India faced Germany.
The USA and Japan produced an enthralling match where neither team was able to assert full control. Japan breached the American defence for the first time in the tournament, opening the scoring with a scrappy penalty corner rebound in the third quarter. The USA then fought back in a thrilling final quarter, scoring two penalty corner goals to advance to the final and book their spot at the Paris Olympic Games. Japan can still qualify for Paris by finishing third and will be looking for better accuracy from their penalty corners in their bronze medal match against India.
USA captain Ashley Hoffman said afterwards: “I am without words… It still doesn’t feel real that we’re going to Paris. After not qualifying last time in India, we came and honestly I think we put that to bed… We were just so present this whole tournament and I’m so proud of this group.”
Germany prevailed in a riveting high-paced encounter against the Indian home team. The Germans couldn’t find a goal despite dominating the opening encounters and India struck first with a penalty corner at the end of the first quarter. India carried some momentum into the second period and Germany had to scramble repeatedly before equalising on the stroke of halftime. It looked as though the Germans were safe when Charlotte Stapenhorst bagged her second goal on 57 minutes but India came back with a penalty corner goal two minutes later. The drama continued in the shootout with the teams still level after five attempts, and it took an audacious finish by Lisa Nolte to give Germany the 4-3 win, sending them on to the final and the Paris Olympics.
An elated Nolte said afterwards: “I’m very happy, I’m so proud of the team, it’s difficult to find the right words. The match wasn’t as good as we expected, it was a tough game, India was a strong opponent and our defence was good but we didn’t use our chances. But in the end, we are the winner, that’s the main thing and I’m so, so proud.”
In the day’s other 5th to 8th place playoff matches in Ranchi, Italy and Chile both enjoyed periods of dominance in an entertaining encounter. Chili scored first but Italy drew level thanks to an Antonella Bruni field goal. The Italians then took the lead through a brilliant individual goal from Federica Carta but Paula Valdivia found the equaliser for Chile to take the match to a shootout where Italy prevailed.
New Zealand did all the playing against Czechia and could easily have notched up a big win, but they failed to convert from 10 penalty corners and the Czechs defended bravely. New Zealand eventually secured the win with two field goals in the final three minutes to advance to the 5th place playoff.
Over in Valencia, the home side, Spain, took on Ireland and Belgium faced off against Great Britain in the all-important semi-final showdowns.
Spain and Ireland put on a defensive masterclass in a thrilling match where neither team was able to score in regulation time. Spain were flawless in winning the ensuing shootout 3-0 and advanced to the final, so booking their place in Paris. Ireland are left to rue their missed penalty corners as they head into the third-place playoff with their Olympic dream at stake.
Player of the match Lucia Jimenez said afterwards: “First of all I want to congratulate and wish good luck to the Ireland team – they were incredible, they play really good hockey and they deserve a spot as well. It was a fight. These games are like this… we are really happy.”
Belgium’s dominance in the third quarter proved to be the difference as they prevailed 3-2 in a tightly contested match with Great Britain in the other semi-final in Valencia. That sent Belgium through to the final and the Paris Olympics, while Great Britain's Olympic hopes rest on a third-place encounter against Ireland.
“I’m super, super-happy and super-proud of how my team played super-good,” said player of the match Barbara Nelen whose side will be returning to the Olympic Games for the first time in 12 years. “Finally, after 12 years, it’s better late than never,” she added.
In the 5th to 8th place playoff matches, Juliani Din enjoyed an energetic 200th cap for a highly motivated Malaysian side against a Korean team that struggled to find a spark and failed to convert any of their numerous opportunities in the first half. Hyejin Cho eventually broke the deadlock with a field goal for Korea, and they added two penalty corners for a difficult 3-0 win.
In the final match of the day, Canada had to work hard for their 2-0 victory over Ukraine, with their first goal coming just before the end of the third quarter. The Canadians will now take on Korea for 5th place while Ukraine will play Malaysia for 7th.
It was an action-packed final day of men’s pool matches at the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024 in Oman’s capital, Muscat.
Germany were in control throughout in their 3-0 win against Chile. Two penalty corner goals saw them 2-0 up by halftime and Justus Weigand added the third in the final quarter to secure top spot in Group B and a place in the semi-finals.
New Zealand went into their match with Canada assured of advancing to the semi-finals after the result earlier in the day had ended Chile’s hopes. The Black Sticks controlled the match for a comfortable 4-0 win – all their goals coming from open play – to advance to the final four.
Also sealing their spot in the semi-finals were Great Britain who romped home 6-0 in their match against China. Sam Ward celebrated his 100th cap for Great Britain by scoring a brace, with Zachary Wallace also scoring two of the six goals. The result sees the British finishing top of Pool A to keep their Olympic dream alive.
Malaysia came out firing in their must-win encounter against Pakistan. It was a fitting way for Malaysia’s captain Marhan Jalil to mark his 300th cap for the side – in a match that had it all: end-to-end action, moments of genius, sensational strikes, a missed penalty stroke and plenty of late goal-mouth drama. Each time the Malaysians edged in front, Pakistan came back at them – coming from behind three times and eventually securing the 3-3 draw which was enough to see them through to the semi-finals after finishing second in Pool A.
Pakistan will come up against world champions Germany in their semi-final encounter on Saturday while Great Britain will take on New Zealand.
To see the final pool standings for the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Muscat, please click here.
For more information about the qualifiers and the upcoming Olympic Games Paris 2024, visit Olympics.Hockey.
FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024
Ranchi, India – 18 January
Result Match 13 (W)
Chile 2 - 2 Italy (SO: 1-2)
Player of the match: Federica Carta (ITA)
Umpires: Rebecca Edwards (ENG), Katrina Turner (NZL)
Result Match 14 (W)
New Zealand 2 - 0 Czechia
Player of the match: Barbora Cechakova (CZE)
Umpires: Ayanna McClean (TTO), Kristy Robertson (AUS)
Result Match 16 (W)
USA 2 - 1 Japan
Player of the match: Ashley Sessa (USA)
Umpires: Sophie Bockelmann (GER), Cookie Tan (SGP)
Result Match 15 (W)
Germany 2 - 2 India (SO: 4-3)
Player of the match: Lisa Nolte (GER)
Umpires: Amber Church (NZL), Wanri Venter (RSA)
Valencia, Spain – 18 January
Result Match 13 (W)
Korea 3 - 0 Malaysia
Player of the match: Jengeun Seu (KOR)
Umpires: Jianjun Chen (CHN), Rachel Williams (ENG)
Result Match 14 (W)
Spain 0 - 0 Ireland (SO: 3-0)
Player of the match: Lucia Jimenez (ESP)
Umpires: Kelly Hudson (NZL), Michelle Meister (GER)
Result Match 15 (W)
Belgium 3 - 2 Great Britain
Player of the match: Barbara Nelen (BEL)
Umpires: Maggie Giddens (USA), Emi Yamada (JPN)
Result Match 16 (W)
Canada 2 - 0 Ukraine
Player of the match: Sara McManus (CAN)
Umpires: Ivona Makar (CRO), Ilanggo Kanabathu (MAS)
Muscat, Oman – 18 January
Result Match 9 (M)
Germany 3 - 0 Chile
Player of the match: Tom Grambusch (GER)
Umpires: Paul Walker (ENG), Sean Edwards (ENG)
Result Match 10 (M)
Canada 0 - 4 New Zealand
Player of the match: Hayden Phillips (NZL)
Umpires: Steve Rogers (AUS), Darren Hubach (RSA)
Result Match 11 (M)
Great Britain 6 - 0 China
Player of the match: Sam Ward (GBR)
Umpires: Sean Rapaport (RSA), Tyler Klenk (CAN)
Result Match 12 (M)
Pakistan 3 - 3 Malaysia
Player of the match: Ammad Butt (PAK)
Umpires: Gareth Greenfield (NZL), Gabriel Labate (ARG)