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Hiroshima, Japan: The fifth to eighth place positions at the FIH Series Finals were decided after two very different matches. Mexico dominated in their game against Fiji, but it was a tense and very close encounter when Poland met Uruguay. In the end, the European team held their nerve to win the shoot-out
Fiji – Mexico
Fiji and Mexico had lost all of their pool matches, so this was a chance to finish the competition with a win. It was a chance that Mexico took with some relish.
In the first quarter, the game was tight, although Mexico had the greater share of possession. The Central American team took the lead two minutes before the end of the quarter, Fernanda Oviedo was the scorer from a penalty corner.
In the second quarter Mexico continued to dominate all over the pitch, giving Fiji few opportunities to enter the circle. Mexico won four consecutive penalty corners but were unable to convert any of them. In turn, Fiji also won a penalty corner but the shot was well saved by the Mexico goalkeeper.
It was into the second half before another goal was scored. This time Arlette Estrada was able to get a touch on the ball and diverted it past the ‘keeper. Minutes later Michel Navarro gave her team a 3-0 lead after flicking the ball high into Fiji’s goal.
In the last quarter, Mexico’s captain Michel Navarro made the most of a quickly played counter attack, driving into the circle and shooting home. Navarro added to that tally just minutes later from a drag flick at a penalty corner. The 5-0 win was a confidence boost for the Mexican team ahead of the Pan American Games later in the year.
Fiji assistant coach Emi Nawaqakuta: “The message we want to tell the world is to never quit, no matter how much you are losing. And when you are winning you must remain humble. The girls have a fighting spirit and one of our goals is always to stay positive no matter what.”
Mexico team captain Michel Navarro: “It was better but it wasn’t enough for us, we have to train a lot and think about Pan American Games”
FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima, 2019
Result: Fiji 0, Mexico 5 (Mexico finish 7th, Fiji finish 8th)
Umpires: Veronica Villafane (ARG), Rhiannon Murrie (AUS)
Poland – Uruguay
These two teams suffered disappointing losses in the previous day’s cross-over matches so it was important they were able to regroup for this classification match.
In the first quarter, Uruguay quickly took the lead; good combination play leading into Poland’s circle saw Teresa Viana take the ball around the goalkeeper to open the scoring. It was Viana who doubled the lead minutes later as she deflected a reverse shot in at the ‘keeper’s far post. Uruguay kept pushing and tried to increase their lead but Poland didn’t panic and were beginning to create their own opportunities.
The second quarter saw Poland start with a much higher intensity. Quick passes and fast player movement started to create gaps in the Uruguay defence. Poland reduced the deficit through Paula Wrzesinski, who intercepted a pass and rushed into the Uruguay circle. Her shot flew unerringly past the Uruguay goalkeeper.
After the half time break, Poland’s captain, Marlena Rybacha, was driving her team forwards but it was until six minutes from the end of the quarter that the European team found a way through. Oriana Bratkowska equalised when she connected sweetly with a bouncing ball. The last five minutes of the quarter saw Poland defending stoically after they were down to 10 players following a yellow card suspension.
In the last quarter, the intensity and pressure went up as both teams sought the all-important winning goal. Uruguay won two penalty corners in a row but frustratingly couldn’t convert them. As time ticked on it was clear that this intense match was going to shoot-out.
Even here the teams couldn’t be separated in the early stages. Uruguay were 3-1 down but fought back to 3-3. Eventually the Polish were able to get a breakthrough and won 5-4.
Poland team manager Lukasz Julga: “The first quarter was difficult, I think the girls were sleeping. In the second quarter we woke up and started to play. They played really good transfer and we had to score twice. To win fifth place for us is an amazing feeling ”
Uruguay Head Coach Nicolas Tixe: “We started really well. In the first quarter we scored two goals and had the advantage, but again we have made some errors. We are finishing in sixth position, which was probably not what we had expected. We have to now think about the next tournament, the Pan American Games in one month.”
FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima, 2019
Result: Poland 2 (5), Uruguay 2 (4) (Poland ranked 5th, Uruguay ranked 6th)
Umpires: Chieko Soma (JPN), Katrina Woolf (NZL)
The action continues tomorrow in Hiroshima (Saturday 21 June) with the semi-finals
15:45 (JST time) India – Chile
18:00 (JST time) Russia – Japan