In these most important of matches, Ireland managed to withstand an onslaught of pressure from Korea, while France eased to a competent 3-0 victory over Scotland. The results mean that Ireland and France will now meet in tomorrow’s final and, to the delight of both teams and their staff, will be part of the FIH Olympic qualifying events in October and November. Korea and Scotland will play for third place.
Ireland v Korea
The numerous Irish spectators virtually turned le Touquet into a home fixture for the Green Army as they took to the field against Korea in this most important match.
The winner of the semi-final match has a guaranteed place in the FIH Olympic qualifier events taking place later this year so for both Ireland (FIH World Ranking: 11) and Korea (WR:17), this match was of vital importance to their Olympic ambitions.
The first quarter was a cagey affair as both teams were testing each other out. The result was 15 minutes of attack and counter-attack with few circle penetrations and fewer goals.
It was Korea who struck first, through a penalty corner, which was calmly converted by Jeon Byungjin. His fierce shot flew through the legs of goalkeeper David Harte.
The goal spurred Ireland into a greater level of intensity and that pressure was rewarded just ahead of the half-time whistle when Matthew Nelson was able to round Kim Jaehyon, the Korean goalkeeper and slot the ball home to bring the scores level.
Just one minute into the second half and Eugene Magee used all his skill to double Ireland’s lead. Just a few seconds later Benjamin Walker scored goal number three for the top-ranked team in le Touquet.
At this point of the match, Korea’s extra crossover game seemed to be taking its toll and the Asian side looked tired. However, the team rallied and Lee Seungil, used all of his experience to slam home a perfectly executed penalty corner. At 3-2, the final 15 minutes was all set to be a tense affair for both teams.
With a goal advantage, Ireland were defending with gritty determination but Korea were throwing everything at them. David Harte was in the thick of the action, throwing his body around the goal to keep the Korea attack at bay.
With minutes to go, Korea removed their goalkeeper to get an on-field player advantage but the plan back-fired as Ireland gained possession and Neil Glassey was able to score into an empty goal, putting the game beyond Korea’s reach. As the final whistle rang out, Ireland celebrated reaching the final and taking another step along the road to Olympic qualification.
David Harte, Ireland’s goalkeeper and captain said: “We are completely delighted that we achieved our first objective, which was of course reach the finals as this will lead us to the next step on our road to Tokyo. The way we did it and the manner was just typically Irish in the sense that we dug it out. We grafted so hard at the back and ultimately we came away with a very deserved victory.”
FIH Series Finals Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, 2019
Result: Ireland 0, Korea 0
Umpires: Nazmi Kamaruddin (MAS), Paul Walker (ENG)
France v Scotland
Packed stands greeted the host nation France as they entered the field of play for their semi-final match with Scotland.
Opening encounters between the teams were well-matched but steadily the higher-ranked French team (WR:15) began to dominate. The first opportunity to score came from a penalty corner three minutes before the end of the quarter. Although the first attempt was well saved, France were awarded a second and Tynevez deflected Hugo Genestet’s initial shot to give his side the lead. The goal was greeted with wild cheering and “Allez les Bleues” from the home crowd.
Just minutes later France doubled their lead through Blaise Rogeau – a well-taken open play goal.
The second quarter saw renewed efforts from Scotland to get back into the game. Despite their best efforts, Scotland couldn’t break through the French defence.
Four minutes into the second half and Victor Charlet thought he had scored the third goal. Unfortunately his effort was disallowed but not before the crowd had erupted in delight.
It was French captain Hugo Genestet who scored the decisive third goal. The team was awarded a penalty stroke and Genestet mad Eno mistake as he dispatched it into the Scottish goal.
As the final whistle sounded at the Field Eric Choteau, the French team and their supporters were ecstatic. For the French, the Olympic journey continues, plus in tomorrow’s final, they have a chance to seal victory over Ireland in front of a vociferous home crowd.
France captain Hugot Genestet said: “We are really happy I think we controlled the game and did not leave Scotland many opportunities. We could have scored more goals but with the sun and the crowd it was a perfect day”
FIH Series Finals Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, 2019
Result: France 3, Scotland 0
Umpires: Michiel Otten (NED), Nick Bennett (ENG)
The semi-finals day finished on a positive note full of hope ahead of the International Olympic Day as FIH Representative and Executive board member Marijke Fleuren, alongside Olivier Moreau of the French Hockey Federation handed over a collection of 113 sticks to be donated to Senegal, the host of the next Youth Olympic Games in 2022. The sticks were donated by all the team members and will help the Senegalese National Association grow the sport in the country. To support Senegal as the latest addition to the global hockey community, FIH is developing a Targeted Assistance Programme (TAP).
Action continues tomorrow with:
Korea v Scotland at 15:30 CEST
Ireland v France at 18:00 CEST