Nerves were fully on display in the fourth day of Women's World Cup action in Amstelveen and Terrassa. In the opening match, Chile won a war of attrition with Ireland to record their first ever World Cup win. The next match was a clash between two teams who couldn't be separated as China and India played out a high tempo game that only produced two goals but was a fascinating encounter from start to finish.
If the first two matches were tense, the third match, between Japan and South Africa was thrilling as the African team, led by Onathatile Zulu, completed a great escape after going three-nil down in the first half.
New Zealand went into a 3-1 lead over England and held onto that lead with a defiant display of defending. And in the final match of the day Australia stunned Belgium with two quick goals that took the Red Panthers by surprise.
Ireland v Chile (Pool A)
This was a match that both teams had targeted as a game where points might be available and that awareness really added to the pressure and urgency that could be felt across the pitch.
The first three quarters were goalless but full of high-energy running and a lot of attacks on both goals. Claudia Schuler was the busier of the two goalkeepers but both Schuler and Ayeisha McFerran pulled off some vitally important saves.
Chile's work was made harder in the first half with a series of cards – yellow and green – which put the side under some additional pressure.
Ireland's Head Coach Sean Dancer will doubtless be frustrated as Ireland won a series of penalty corners but failed to make any of them count. Chile's number one penalty corner runners played a vital part in keeping the higher ranked team from scoring.
The breakthrough came three minutes into the final quarter. Chile won their own penalty corner and Denise Krimerman Losada made no mistake as she fired the ball into the bottom left corner of McFerran's goal.
Ireland put Las Diablas under immense pressure for the final 10 minutes, winning a number of penalty corners but still failing to find a way past the team in red. A yellow card for Eleana Tice limited Dancer's option to remove his goalkeeper and Chile held on to record a very important first win in a World Cup.
Player of the Match was Manuela Urroz. She said: 'I am so proud of this team, we have worked hard for a number of years. I am so happy I cannot explain it. I think both teams knew that this was an important game for the group. But this is a big step for us, to win our first game at a World Cup.'
Elena Tice of Ireland said: 'We knew Chile would be a good team. We are bitterly disappointed. We didn't convert our penalty corners. We struggled with the execution. We have to do better. Now we have to go out and do better against Germany tomorrow.'
China v India (Pool B)
The second match of the day in Amstelveen got off to another tense start as India and China went in search of their first win of the tournament. The first quarter was extremely well balanced with both sides testing and probing each others' defences but there was only one shot in the first 15 minutes – with India hitting the target but finding China's goalkeeper Liu Ping in the way.
India thought they had scored midway through the second half when Tete Salima pushed the ball over the China goal-line following a pass from Ktariya Vandana. However, a smart referral by China saw the goal discounted after it was judged to have hit the striker's body.
It was China who got the breakthrough. Zhang Xindan played a lovely pass which split the India defence and found Zheng Jiali behind the defence. The subsequent shot flew past Savita to give China the lead in this hugely important encounter.
The second half began with China on the attack. First Gu Bingfeng sent a penalty corner just over the cross bar and then Zhang Xiaoxue just missed connecting with a cross that would have definitely produced a second goal.
That miss would come back to haunt China when Vandana was able to send a penalty corner rebound flying past Ping. The goal came at a time when India could have been forgiven for thinking they were never going to break through the staunch China defence.
With just under four minutes left, China went a player down as Zheng Jiali recieved a yellow card. Despite this, China won a penalty corner but Gu's shot was well saved by Savita and the danger passed.
The final minutes saw China pepper the India goalmouth with speculative crosses but no-one could get on the end of anything and both teams settled for their second drawn result of the tournament.
Player of the Match Katariya Vandana said: 'We are disappointed because we should have won the match. We worked hard and hopefully we will win the next match.'
China's Cui Xiuxia said: 'Today we played and worked hard. We should have won and hopefully we will win the next one. We need to score more goals but we enjoyed the one that went in. For our next game, we hope to score from our penalty corners.'
Japan v South Africa (Pool D)
Japan got off to a super start as they chased their first win of the World Cup in Terrassa. Captain Nagai Yuri led by example as she was able to poke a rebounded ball past South Africa Phumelela Mbande in the third minute. It took another six minutes before the Cherry Blossoms doubled their lead, this time through the quick thinking of Toriyama Mai, who got in front of her marking defender and lifted the ball over the keeper.
South Africa were shell-shocked and for a few minutes there was confusion among the green and gold players. However, they rallied and began making their own in-roads into the Japanese circle. The problem for the South African team was that, while Japan were moving the ball freely from player to player, South Africa were relying on the pace of individual players and all too often the Japanese were just able to recover possession with a strong tackle.
In the second half, South Africa sought to answer Head Coach Giles Bonnet's call for improvements in all areas of the pitch. Lilian du Plessis was the recipient of a great pass from her midfield and her shot whistled just wide of Tanaka Akia in the Japan goal. Seconds later and South Africa had a penalty corner – again it was Du Plessis shooting but Tanaka was up to the challenge.
Despite South Africa's high energy re-start, it was Japan who scored a third. Nishikori Emi was able to slot home a perfectly placed shot to extend the Cherry Blossom's lead.
South Africa hit back with a typically belligerent goal. Bernadette Costin shot and the ball flew high into the air from the goalkeeper's pads. Kirsten Paton was on hand to pluck the ball from mid-air and smash it into the goal.
The goal galvanised South Africa and suddenly the momentum shifted totally. Onthatile Zulu was causing chaos in the Japanese defence with her speed and strength and a penalty corner was her reward. With five minutes left to play, Tarryn Lombard scored from the top of the circle and suddenly it was game on.
With just over a minute left on the clock, Tarryn Lombard struck again. Head Coach Giles Bonnet had pulled the goalkeeper off the pitch. As Lombard picked up a bouncing ball and turned it into the goal, Bonnet put the keeper back on and South Africa completed the best comeback this World Cup has seen thus far.
Player of the Match Onthatile Zulu: 'It was a tough game and we started the second half 2-0 down. We came out and really fought so hard to get this result.'
England v New Zealand (Pool B)
It was a perfect start for England and Lily Owsley. The attacking midfielder celebrated her 100th England cap with a goal in the 4th minute when she was on hand to score from England's first penalty corner of the match. The ball rebounded twice before Owsley lifted it into the Blackstick's goal.
For much of the first half England looked to be dominant but they failed to capitalise on their much superior possession or circle entries. The team was made to pay in the 29th minute when a fantastic aerial ball out of defence was picked up by Katie Doar who made no mistake as she unleashed a reverse stick shot past the England 'keeper Maddie Hinch.
England thought they had scored when a Grace Balsdon penalty corner flew into the goal. A referral was upheld by the video umpire Laurine Delforge as the replay showed the shot to be dangerous.
England's day was made worse when Katie Doar doubled her personal tally. She ran the ball into the circle and wrong-footed Hinch with a quickly taken shot to give New Zealand the lead.
With just nine minutes left on the clock, New Zealand gave themselves a cushion when Tarryn Davey took a high ball out of the air and hit it into the goal. The initial shot came from a penalty corner strike from Tyler Lench. Hinch made the save but the defence couldn't clear the ball and they were made to pay.
England pushed and pushed for a lifeline. Elena Rayer was driving the team forward from the frontline and the result was a series of penalty corners. New Zealand, for their part, were defending as a complete unit. Shots were batted off the line, tackles were thrown in and still the Blacksticks' line held strong.
In total, England had 14 penalty corners and scored just one goal, something David Ralph will be concerned about as the team faces its final pool match against China.
The Player of the Match was New Zealand's Katie Doar.
Belgium v Australia (Pool D)
The final match of the day was a tough and uncompromising encounter between two teams who both have serious aspirations in this tournament. As in their first game, Belgium created a number of penalty corner opportunities but were unable to convert any in the first half. Penny Squibb was immaculate on the post and was key to Australia keeping a clean sheet in the first half.
At the other end of the field, Australia were working to create their own opportunities but they were up against some super defensive work, particularly by Helene Brasseur, and over the 30 minutes of the first half, they only had one shot. In that instance, a great interception from Lien Hillewaert kept Mariah Williams from opening the scoring just before the half-time break.
The deadlock was broken in some style in the 39th minute. Belgium were reduced to 10 players when Pauline Leclef received a green card. First Greta Hayes esaped the close attention of two defenders and was able to create room to receive a pass and slip it past Elena Sotgiu to score her first senior international goal.
Things got worse for Belgium a few seconds later as they momentarily lost their discipline and defensive structure. The ball was played into the Belgium circle and the first Australian shot hit the post. Rebecca Greiner was the first to react and she pounced on the loose ball and struck it home.
Belgium began the fightback but at the other end of the pitch they found Stephanie Kershaw in tremendous form in the heart of the Australian defence. She intercepted a number of crucial passes and Belgium's attack was broken down time and again.
As the second half counted down, Belgium became more desperate to score the elusive goals. Judith Vandermeiren, in particular, was weaving her way through the Australian defence but just couldn't find the finishing touch.
Player of the Match, Stephanie Kershaw (AUS) said: 'That was really good. We knew it would be tough and important. The whole team is pleased that we got the win.'
Belgium's captain Alix Gerniers said: 'Today was important to top the pool. It was disappointing but tomorrow is another day and we will start again then.'
The action in the FIH Hockey Women's World Cup continues on Wednesday 6 July. At the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, Pool A’s Ireland will play Germany at 16:30, followed by Netherlands against Chile at 19:30.
At the Estadi Olimpic de Terrasa in Spain, it is all Pool D action as Japan will face Belgium at 18:00, then Australia take on South Africa at 21:30.
Check out the pool standings here.
Pool A: Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Chile
Pool B: England, New Zealand, India, China
Pool C: Argentina, Spain, Korea, Canada
Pool D: Australia, Belgium, Japan, South Africa
FIH Hockey Women's World Cup Spain & Netherlands 2022
5 July 2022 Results
Wagener Hockey Stadium, Amstelveen (NED)
Ireland 0, Chile 1
Player of the Match: Manuela Urroz (CHI)
Umpires: Ivona Makar (CRO), Wanri Venter (RSA), Annelize Rostron (RSA-video)
Wagener Hockey Stadium, Amstelveen (NED)
India 1, China 1
Player of the Match: Katariya Vandana (IND)
Umpires: Aleisha Neumann (AUS), Kang Hyun Young (KOR) Irene Presenqui (ARG - video)
Estadi Olimpic de Terrasa (ESP)
Japan 3, South Africa 3
Player of the Match: Onthatile Zulu (RSA)
Umpires: Catalina Montesino (CHI), Cookie Tan (SGP), Michele Meister (GER- video)
Wagener Hockey Stadium, Amstelveen (NED)
England 1, New Zealand 3
Player of the Match: Katie Doar (NZL)
Umpires: Maggie Giddens (USA), Emi Yamada (JPN), Laurine Delforge (BEL-video)
Estadi Olimpic de Terrasa (ESP)
Belgium 0, Australia 2
Player of the Match: Stephanie Kershaw (AUS)
Umpires: Kelly Hudson (NZL), Hannah Harrison (ENG) Michi Meister (GER-video)