Women’s tournament reaches quarter-final stages
The women’s Junior World Cup has a distinctly European feel to it as five teams from Europe take their places in the quarter-finals of the tournament at Santiago in Chile.
Netherlands, Germany, Spain, England and Belgium all made it through the group stages, to join Australia, USA and Argentina in the next stage.
The Netherlands and Argentina are the two sides yet to taste defeat, topping pool A and B respectively, while the other pool winners, Australia and Spain both showed their vulnerability as they drew with England and China in the pools.
The opening rounds have seen some close games, with the 4-4 draw between Spain and China and a pool-deciding 3-3 match between England and South Africa the pick of the matches, but it has also been a tournament where goals have been aplenty.
USA were creative in their opening match against Zimbabwe with seven of their 10 goals coming from open play, but the team that has hit the richest vein of goal-scoring form are the reigning champions the Netherlands. The women in orange put 10 past Korea in their first match, five past the USA in their second and then a whopping 13 goals against Zimbabwe to secure top spot in the pool. Unsurprisingly, Frederique Matla tops the goal-scoring statistics after three games.
The eight teams who failed to make the quarter finals will play each other to determine final places. New Zealand play Zimbabwe; France take on South Africa; Korea face China; and Japan will play the host nation Chile.
The quarter-finals have thrown up some exciting matches. The opening match will pit two European giants against each other as Netherlands take on Germany. While the Netherlands sailed through the pools, Germany were unable to halt the Argentina attack and lost 4-2 to the 2013 runners-up. However, as any-one who has ever played any German hockey side know all too well, you can never discount the German team in the knockout stages and it is inbuilt into the players and coaches that nothing is over until the final whistle.
Spain versus England will be the second quarter-final and this will also be an intriguing match-up. Spain are a nation that is rebuilding its women’s hockey scene and both the senior and the junior sides have been raising their game. Spain topped their group after very clinical performances against Belgium and New Zealand, but they endured a hair-raising final few minutes against China as the Asian giants took a 4-3 lead in the 69th minute, only for Spain to grab an equaliser through Belen Iglesias in the final seconds of the match.
England, on the other hand, have been less than convincing throughout. Two draws and one win saw them through ahead of third placed Chile, much to the local crowd’s heart-break, but Craig Keegan’s team now need to lift their performances to the next level.
The third quarter-final pits two very familiar adversaries against each other. USA versus Argentina is a regular fixture at any Pan American competition and this match-up will undoubtedly be another humdinger. These two teams bring out the best in each other, so expect Argentinian sizzle and USA muscularity as they vie for a place in the semi-finals. It will be a tough one to call, although on present form, Agustin Corradini’s team should be the side to emerge victorious.
The final quarter-final sees the rapidly improving Belgium team take on the might of Australia’s Jillaroos. Like England, Belgium have not been convincing although there are signs that the European side’s confidence is growing with every match. That said, Australia have not dominated as you might expect. The presence of Olympians, Mariah Williams and Grace Stewart should give them the edge in terms of experience, but at this crucial stage of the event, who knows?