It’s a results based business this hockey lark and the result is the only positive for England! Belarus entered the game with 0 goals for, 24 goals against. England were heavy favourites. For those unaware Belarus are ranked 22nd for outdoor hockey and 3rd for indoor in the world so not as unfamiliar with elite hockey as you’d expect, but the fact is England should have won comfortably given the other scorelines.
Where England differed from Ireland and Germany in their approach was England initially tried to pass through the Belarusians and then eliminate 1v1. Neither is likely to work against a team rooted in indoor hockey disciplines.
So the first half was a frustrating affair for England with a huge volume of turn over and very little in the way of good chances. Despite the run of play England took the lead, Lily Owsley again scoring a tap in after a corner broke down to her. Isabelle Petter then added to the lead with a deft deflection from a nice Ellie Rayer pass.
However within a minute Belarus had their first goal of the tournament. Karyna Syddykava able to convert a penalty corner with a simple slap hit into the bottom corner. Six minutes later the scores were level as captain Natassia Syrayezhka scored in open play but Laura Unsworth was able to retake the lead seconds later, lobbing the keeper from close range.
The last ten minutes were a fraught affair with England frustrated by some odd decisions by the umpires, Suzy Petty and Hannah Martin both on the wrong end of a series of perplexing calls. Then the moment of drama: with only seven minutes remaining Natallia Shtsin equalised for Belarus.
England rallied and managed to get a winning goal in the 56th minute through Hannah Martin as a scramble developed in the circle.
The win secured a semi final berth for England but serious improvement is required. Despite winning the group England will know they have been below par.
Assuming the Dutch win against Russia they will be in the semi finals and could be the team England face as the Oranje have had an uncharacteristically poor first two games, earning only two points from six.