Austria vs. Poland
Bronze Medal Match
Poland, ranked FIH 24 in the world came into this tournament as the fourth highest placed team, so they have at least met their expectations. The Austrians are seven places behind them and are the second lowest ranked side in the Championship. They have done brilliantly to get here, surprising, perhaps even themselves. Perhaps there aren’t many superstars in either team, but for Poland, their captain Marlena Rybacha has been good at the back, Natalia Wisniewska has some talent and Magdalena Zagajska has been exciting. For Austria their skipper, Corinna Zerbs is a bit of a deep lying play maker and the number 23 Nathalie Matousek has been one of the young talents over the past week. With exactly the same colours in their respective flags, there’s a bit of a colour clash today. Austria are in their red shirts, with a white trim, whilst Poland are in the alternate of white vests, with a red trim.
Poland gets the first short corner of the match, when Wisniewska drives into the circle and is bundled over. It’s passed to their right at the top of the circle and fired in from a hit. It’s above the backboards however, and the goal doesn’t count. Austria’s first chance comes about shortly after this. Matousek drives forward and cuts the ball back to the edge of the circle. Her team mates fires it to the back post and the team get the penalty corner. Zerbs stings the keepers pads with a drag flick. It comes back high for second attempt. They can’t find the back of the net and the opportunity fizzles out. The score remains goaless after the first 15 minutes.
In the third minute, Rybacha gets absolutely chopped in half on the edge of the Austrian 23 metre line. The resulting free hit, is shelled into the circle, but there’s nobody able to make the connection. Shortly after this, Poland win a penalty corner, as Zagajska drives into the circle and draws a foul. Rybacha is at the second castle is given the ball, but fires just wide of the post.
In the eight minute Poland go close again, with the ball just going the post yet again. Moments later though, they get yet another short corner. They are pilling on the pressure now. The Austrians are not happy. They think that an injustice is occurring. There must have been a debate between the umpires over the microphones, as the decision is overturned and we restart with a bully. Austria are creeping forward late in this quarter. They have been very compact for a bit, but have managed a decent circle entry and a shot on goal, but it’s too close to the keeper to challenge her properly. With two minutes remaining, the Poles break the deadlock. An attack from the right hand corner of the pitch, sees a two versus one situation on the Austrian defender. The ball is played to the back post and Zagajska hits the back boards to give her team a one nil lead. A little over a minute later, she’s at it again. She combines well to create a shooting chance and it’s hit a foot on the way forward. Penalty stroke! Rybacha steps up, but sends it just wide of the keeper’s left hand post. The half time hooter goes for a score line of Austria 0 – 1 Poland.
Poland get us underway for the second half. In the third minute, Austria get the ball out on the left. They punt a hopeful ball into the circle. It’s a bobbly one and manages to get to the back post for the equaliser. It’s put away by the number 27, Lisa Steyrer and now are scores are level; Austria 1 – 1 Poland.
Five minutes after the Austrian goal, Poland attack down the right. The move break down, as Zerbs makes the tackle. There’s another turn over though, as Sandra Tatarczuk wins back possession, cuts left and shoots. Dzesika Mazur retakes the lead for her side with the second phase. This seems to cause a reaction from the team in red, though. A minute later Matousek and Zerbs combine down a left channel to move the ball into the circle. There’s a shot from Johanna Czech, it’s saved, but goes right back to the Austrian and she sends it home at the second attempt. The score at the end of the third quarter is Austria 2 – 2 Poland.
Three minutes into the fourth period, Poland come down the left flank and earn a short corner. A straight strike hits the keeper. In the second phase an Austrian foot is found for the Poles to have another go. It’s deflected for a 23 metre restart and they get a third short corner within a minute. It’s good pressure. This short, however is deflected wide for another this 23 metre restart. Rybacha sends it to the right. The ball is centred into the circle and deflected into the goal. Zagajska gets her second of the game for Poland. It’s now Austria 2 – 3 Poland.
In the tenth minute, Poland get a great chance, as Wiktoria Blaszyk drives past the full back, along the baseline and cuts back the pass, but her team mate sends it over the bar. Austria go up the other end soon after, but the keeper smothers the ball at the attackers feet. With 24 seconds remaining a long and high ball forward is missed everybody. The Austrian keeper Karin Stiefelmeyer comes forward to the edge of the quarter line to sweep with her stick, but misses it. Blaszyk is rushing forward, picks the ball up and drives towards the open goal to score a fourth and final goal. Austria take the bronze medal with a 4 – 2 win.
After the match, I chated to Poland’s number 18, Natalia Wisniewska. She tells me that there was an aim within her squad for promotion back to the top tier, but are happy to medal. She speaks with pride about how his young team have performed and how they had played with a lot of heart. They have been impressed with their discipline and how they all work for themselves. They could be amongst the favourites for the gold medal at this level in two years time.