Day 13 was Women’s semi-finals day at the World Hockey League in Johannesburg. As well as the semis, the losing teams from the quarter finals were also in action to decide who was going to win those all-important World Cup places.
As well as those games, there was also the 9/10 playoff between the teams that finished at the bottom of the pools, Poland and Chile.
Poland v Chile
Both of these teams finished bottom of their respective tables. Poland had lost all of their games, but Chile were agonisingly displaced by South Africa in the final pool match.
Poland took an unlikely lead early on but Chile scored two penalty corners towards the end of the first half and that’s how it stayed. The defeat for Poland meant that they hadn’t won a single game at the tournament.
Japan v India
This was the first of the 5/8 place playoff games to see who gets through to the 5/6 match.
Looking at the world ranking you would think this would be a close contest, but it has to be said that India have not lived up to their ranking in this tournament, whereas Japan have probably been punching above their weight.
With that in mind, it was no surprise to see Japan take a two goal lead in the first half and keep that lead until the end. The win means that Japan have qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
Ireland v South Africa
From the pushback, it was quite an evenly matched encounter, with both teams looking a bit cautious. It was hard to decide if both defences were playing well or both attacks were playing poorly, as neither team were able to get a shot on target in the first 10 minutes or so.
The play continued in the same vein and the quarter finished 0-0.
In the 2nd quarter, Ireland did seem the more dangerous side, but once again they just couldn’t create a chance in the D.
In the 23rd minute, Tarryn Glasby threw a lovely upright backhand which went agonisingly right across the goal. A few seconds later and South Africa had the first penalty corner of the match which Lisa-Marie Deetlefs slapped just wide.
Just then, South Africa referred for a foot in the D, which the umpire didn’t spot and the video umpire awarded to give SA their 2nd penalty corner within a minute. A ball played back to the injector was illegally stopped by the defence but Ireland referred and lost their referral as the penalty corner stood.
This time, Lilian du Plessis’ shot came back off the no.1 runner to Deetlefs, whose backhand shot gave McFerran no chance and it was 1-0 to South Africa.
On 27 Ireland fought to get back into the game but South Africa’s defence was switched on and they were calmly clearing away any danger the Irish could throw at them.
With just over a minute of the half left, Ireland won their first penalty corner and a sweet drag by Upton appeared to come off the SA defender’s body, and the umpire signalled for a stroke. South Africa referred and the video umpire and the decision was upheld. Upton stepped up but smashed the ball against the post to keep South Africa’s lead intact and that’s how the half ended.
It was South Africa wo came out the stronger in the 2nd half with that one goal lead filling them with confidence.
With 3 minutes on the clock, Ireland broke and Kathryn Mullan’s cross was turned towards goal by Anna O’Flanagan but an amazing stick save by Mbande pushed it round the post.
With 5 minutes left of the quarter, Damons broke forward but all her hard work went to waste as her cross was easily cut out by Ireland’s defence. Ireland were putting more pressure on but still couldn’t turn that into chances in the South Africa D.
In the 43rd minute, Emily Beatty made her way into the D but couldn’t finish the shot. Seconds later and Ireland had their 2nd penalty corner but they couldn’t get the slapped shot past the resolute South Africa defence and the quarter came to a close with South Africa still on top.
Ireland started well but a shot from Gillian Pinder was well intercepted on 47. A minute later and Ireland were down to 10 when Chloe Watkins was shown the green card.
South Africa took advantage immediately when a break by Damons found Bernadette Coston who battled to keep the ball in the D and fired a shot to the left of the keeper to give South Africa a 2-0 lead.
Ireland threw caution to the wind to restore the balance when they put their kicking back on with 9 minutes to go.
With Ireland stretched, a break by du Plessis, rounding the Irish defence made it an easy push in with no keeper to stop the shot, and with a 3-0 advantage it was one foot in the World Cup.
With just under 2 minutes left Ireland were awarded a penalty corner which South Africa referred. The video umpire ruled for a short and SA lost their referral. A good drag by Roisin Upton was well stopped by Kara Stella on the line, though.
Seconds later and Ireland won their 4th penalty corner but once again great defending by South Africa kept Ireland out and the game finished 3-0 to South Africa.
Argentina v Germany
Unbeaten Argentina faced Germany in the first semi-final of the day and it was a very confident start from the Germans. They were giving Las Leonas their toughest start and on 7 minutes, Naomi Heyn put them in the lead from a penalty corner.
Argentina came back strong but despite winning 4 penalty corners within the first 10 minutes, they couldn’t find an equaliser.
With just under 2 minutes of the quarter, the German goal scorer, Naomi Heyn, was shown the green card for not being 5. Argentina couldn’t take the advantage and Germany went into the break with the lead.
Within the first 20 seconds of the restart, Argentina won their 5th penalty corner. This time, a beautifully worked corner, with Barrionuevo slipped to Julia Gomez whose push was deflected in by Luciana von der Hayde.
Germany were immediately on the attack and only two good saves by Succi kept them out.
On 21 minutes, Germany won their 3rd penalty corner for a stick block but the drag was fired dangerously into the Argentine defender.
On 22 a dangerous ball came up into Marie Mavers’ face and she had to be taken off with what looked like a nasty gash on her eye.
Germany were back on top and won their 4th PC in the 24 minute but they couldn’t convert the chance.
It seemed as though Germany had saved their best hockey for this game as they were pinning the South Americans back in their own 23, a sight you rarely see, but despite all of the pressure they couldn’t make their chances count.
In the final 30 seconds of the half, Barrionuevo picked up a green card and Germany took instant advantage when a ball smashed into the D found Charlotte Stapenhorst who finished well to give Germany a 2-1 lead at half time.
Straight from the off, Germany were on the attack and only a good stop by Succi kept Elisa Grave from making it 3.
Half way through the quarter and Germany were still keeping Argentina from making any play in the German half but a break from Argentina saw Sanchez play a dangerous ball in but Trinchinetti couldn’t put it in at the back post.
Argentina were beginning to get more of a grip on the game but couldn’t build anything inside the German half and the quarter finished 2-1 to Germany.
Argentina were pushing high at the start of the final quarter but the German defence were playing some outstanding hockey.
On 51 minutes it was Succi again who kept Argentina in the game with a tremendous save.
With 6 minutes to go, Germany won their 5th penalty corner but mis-trap at the top meant that Hoffman had to pick up and fire a shot which Succi once again saved well.
Germany were playing very cool and collected hockey and Argentina just couldn’t get the ball off them.
With 4 minutes left, Merino broke into the German half, carried the ball into the D and fired a wicked backhand that Julia Ciupka had to be at her best to keep out.
On 57 minutes Argentina resorted to the kicking back to try to get back into the game. They were nearly caught out immediately but Mavers could only put her shot wide.
A minute later and Argentina won their 6th penalty corner which Barrionuevo pushed uncharacteristically wide.
Just before the end Merino was incorrectly pulled up for a foot which she was very unhappy about and then, with one second left on the clock, Argentina won another penalty corner which they brought the whole team forward for. The ball bobbled about and went into the net but the umpire ruled against it. Argentina then referred and the video umpire ruled that there was no reason to change the decision and Germany celebrated a great victory.
England v USA
The first quarter was quite evenly matched, with USA having slightly more possession but England having the better of the chances. Neither team could get a firm hold on the ball and the quarter finished goalless.
Within a minute of the restart, Susannah Townsend played a neat ball to Bray in the D who passed to Hannah Martin to put England 1-0 up.
On 21 a great run by Melissa Gonzalez found her break into the England 23 and her pass found an England foot for USA’s first penalty corner. Unfortunately, USA couldn’t convert the chance.
USA were piling on more pressure and Maddie Hinch had to be alert to keep out a shot at the near post. At one point, even Alex Danson was back defending to keep the Americans out.
England did come back into it more but couldn’t make any clear chances and the half finished 1-0 to England.
At the start of the 2nd half, USA were doing well keeping the ball from England and on 33 Jill Witmer fired a cross in which Sharkey just couldn’t quite get on the end of.
With 7 minutes gone it was still all USA pressure, but they still couldn’t make any of that possession count.
On 40 minutes, England’s Hannah Martin picked up a green card for arguing with the umpire to give USA the numerical advantage.
In the 43rd minute it was USA down to 10 when Jill Witmer picked up a green card for persistent stick tackling.
England did manage to get hold of the ball more in the closing minutes but the score remained the same.
With 3 minutes gone in the final quarter, USA won their 2nd penalty corner of the game. A triple save from Maddie Hinch kept USA out and another PC was awarded. This time, Sharkey hit a straight strike which Hinch rebounded out only for Gonzalez to fire over the bar.
With 10 minutes to go, England’s Jo Hunter picked up a green card and USA won their 4th penalty corner seconds later. A straight strike from Vittese came up dangerous of an England stick and another PC was awarded. This time it was Sharkey with a straight strike and the ball went just wide.
More pressure, seconds later from USA saw Jill Witmer burst into the D but Maddie Hinch stopped her shot well.
On 53 minutes, Erin Matson weaved into the D to find an England body. The umpire gave a penalty corner but England referred and the decision was reversed for dangerous play.
With just under 5 minutes to go, Lily Owsley picked up a 5 minute yellow for a push, giving the US the advantage for the remaining minutes.
With 3 minutes to go a shot by Vittese was saved by Hinch but Witmer was on hand to put the ball home to level the score.
USA kept piling forward but the game finished to go to a shootout, the first one of the tournament.
First up was USA captain Melissa Gonzalez and she beat Maddie Hinch on the backhand.
Alex Danson then stepped up who slipped over and Briggs cleared easily. 1-0 USA
Next, Michelle Vittese ran in, Maddie Hinch fell over backwards but somehow twisted to make the save.
Next up was Hollie Webb with her trademark spin in front of the keeper but her shot went wide. 1-0 USA
Kathleen Sharkey then stepped up and put her shot wide.
Sophie Bray was next but Briggs made a great save to keep her out 1-0 USA
Next Alyssa Manley was well saved from Hinch but then Laura Unsworth was kept out by Briggs
Erin Matson was well saved by Hinch and then Haycroft had to score the final one, which she did, to send it to sudden death.
First it was Alex Danson but Briggs was out on her and saved well.
USA captain Gonzalez then stepped up to put the ball in the back of the net and send USA to the final.