Hockey World Cup: Weekend One
The Hockey World Cup kicked off this weekend. Over two weeks, the best teams in the world will battle it out at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre.
After some tight games and an upset marked the first day of play on Saturday followed by goals galore on Sunday, it seems defending champions, the Netherlands, are once again the team to beat. Buckle in for all the highlights from the first eight pool matches below.
Germany 3 - 1 South Africa
Saturday’s tournament opener pitted a strong German side against South Africa, who will be hoping to improve on their best-ever result at a World Cup: seventh place. Viktoria Huse put Germany ahead in the first quarter and they increased their lead through Charlotte Stapenhorst in the third, before Lisa-Marie Deetlefs pulled one back for South Africa. Phumelela Mbande’s performance as goalkeeper could not be faulted, but she was put under sustained pressure by the German attack and was unlucky when a video referral for a penalty corner was upgraded to a stroke, converted by Huse to give Germany an unassailable lead.
England 1 - 1 India
The first match in Pool B was a replay of April’s Commonwealth Games bronze medal play-off where England had the better of India, sweeping a six-nil win. Times were tougher for the host nation in Saturday’s match and it was India who went ahead with a Neha Goyal tap in the second quarter – some scrappy defending in the circle allowed the ball to filter through to the unmarked Goyal on the back post.
The highly-fancied England team, featuring eight players who won Olympic gold with Team GB in 2016, had the bulk of possession and the better of the chances in the second half but struggled to make an impact on the scoreboard. With eight minutes to go, England gambled it all by replacing their goalkeeper with a kicking fullback. The gamble paid off shortly after as England managed to salvage a point with a Lily Owsley penalty corner conversion.
USA 1 - 3 Ireland
The upset of the day on Saturday belonged to 16th-ranked Ireland, who neatly beat seventh-ranked USA. Ireland, who have not played in a World Cup since 2002, went ahead with a Deirdre Duke field goal in the fifth minute and doubled their advantage in the eleventh minute after Shirley McKay’s penalty corner conversion. But that's not where it ended – Margaux Paolino’s penalty corner strike for the USA tightened the scoreline in the fifteenth minute. Ireland’s third goal was controversial. After a USA penalty corner shot went wide, apparently off an Irish stick, the Americans had regrouped at the top of the circle to plan their next corner assault. However, unbeknownst to the USA players, the umpire had called a sixteen-yard hit. The Irish defender, Nikki Evans, fired off a quick hit up the field to find Deirdre Duke one-out with the USA goalie, and in perfect position to slot her second goal of the match.
Australia 3 - 2 Japan
Australia got the three points from their opening match, but the Commonwealth Games silver medallists will likely be doing some soul searching after nearly squandering a three-goal lead. Squad newcomer, Rosie Malone, put Australia ahead in the in the second quarter with a penalty corner deflection. By half time, Australia were up by two courtesy of an Emily Hurtz field goal.
Experienced defender and prolific goal scorer, Jodie Kenny, was the difference for the women in yellow. When Grace Stewart won a penalty corner just after the half, Kenny did what she is best known for: sending a fast flick to the top corner. But Japan responded immediately with a field goal of their own. When Australia had to double down against the Japanese attack for most of the second half, Kenny led from the front as part of a strong back unit, whose defences didn’t let up until Japan’s consolation goal was scored by Akiko Kato in the last minute.
China 0 - 3 Italy
The lowest ranked team in London, Italy have not played at a World Cup for 42 years. But they didn't let the significance of the match affect their performance, netting a comfortable win against a young, inexperienced China. A goal from Valentina Bracconi was the difference at half time, before Lara Oviedo converted from a penalty corner and Giuliana Ruggieri slotted a field goal. China will be rueing missed opportunities after they failed to convert during their period of dominance in the first half. With the Netherlands still to face, China will need to make every chance count in their next match.
Argentina 6 - 2 Spain
Argentina were at their fleet-footed best as the sun beat down at Lee Valley. Spain opened the scoring in the fourth minute through Carola Salvatella, but that was to be the last moment of joy for the Spanish team as Argentina slotted the next five in a blistering three-quarters of hockey. Spain pressed in the final quarter, but Argentina looked dangerous on the break and it was an end-to-end run that gave the South Americans a penalty stroke which Noel Barrionuevo calmly slotted between Maria Ruiz’s legs. Spain’s consolation prize came in the form of a penalty corner which Beatriz Perez converted after a well-practised variation. By the time a yellow card reduced Spain to ten players for the last five minutes of play, any remaining sting had gone out of the game.
Netherlands 7 - 0 Korea
The world’s best team were too good for ninth-ranked Korea. The women in orange started ominously, slotting a simple goal in the first thirty seconds of the match, and the score threatened to blow out after a five-nil quarter time scoreline. However, Korea impressed in the second half, shutting out the Netherlands for the whole half hour and weathering the pressure of several penalty corners. The spread of goal scorers is a particularly worrying sign for the sides yet to face the Netherlands, with five different players finding the back of the net.
New Zealand 4 - 2 Belgium
In the weekend’s final match, the experienced New Zealand team prevailed over a tenacious Belgium. The scorers weren’t troubled until just before the half, when Kelsey Smith converted a penalty corner for New Zealand. A flurry of goals in the next eight minutes of play saw the teams trade the lead twice. New Zealand went up 3 - 2 by scoring two goals in the 32nd minute but it was not until Olivia Merry scored her second goal, six minutes before the siren, that the result was beyond doubt.
How to watch
There are still tickets available for the remaining pool games and some knockout matches. The best way to see the action is in person at Lee Valley.
BT Sport will also be broadcasting matches. See the full schedule here.