With a win over Poland today, Japan will play India in an all-Asian semi-final. The other semi-final will see South Africa, who qualified after defeating Russia today, take on USA. Both European teams will play the match for the 5th place. All games are scheduled on 14 June.
Japan – Poland
As has happened so often in this event, Japan did not wait long to set up camp in their opponents’ half. But on a counter-attack, Joseph Hillyer managed to find his teammate Mikolaj Gumny in an ideal position in front of the goal. Gumny had no hesitation in converting this golden opportunity into the first goal of the match.
The ball possession remained mostly with the Asian champions but Poland was defending well. On a penalty corner however, Shota Yamada drag-flicked the ball into the net, giving his side a deserved equaliser. Japan then missed a huge opportunity with Koji Yamasaki deflecting the ball onto the goalpost. But on the subsequent penalty corner, Hirotaka Zendana made no mistake as he put his team ahead.
Another counter-attack from the determined Poles saw Michal Poltaszewski sending a clever pass to Maciej Janiszewski who, in turn, delivered a precise cross to his team’s leading goalscorer Mateusz Hulboj. The striker needed no invitation to score from short distance.
Early in the second half, Poland’s goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski cleared a penalty corner but the ball came back to Kenta Tanaka, who found the target making it 3-2. Just two minutes later, Japan made the most of the Polish defence’s inability to clear the ball from their own circle to add another goal to their tally. This time the scorer was Koji Yamasaki.
In the final quarter of the game, Poland gave all they could in an attempt to reach the semi-finals. Despite their efforts, it was Japan who increased their lead with two further goals from Kenji Kitazato and Koji Yamasaki – his second of the night.
Japan’s Head Coach Siegfried Aikman: “If you win, it makes you happy. But I was unhappy in the previous games with the way we conceded goals and today was similar: we dominate, our opponents get one chance and it’s a goal. So, then we make it very hard for ourselves. We need to work harder. The inconsistency in our play is troubling me. It’s fantastic to play the home nation. It will a be an exciting match. India play good hockey, they’re skillful, they’re fast, they have everything which should be in a hockey match. For us, it’s a challenge because they are the number one in Asia. We envy them, we want to get that position. So, we accept the challenge with a lot of joy.”
Poland’s Maciej Janiszewski: “I think we just lost energy in the second half. In the first half, we kept our tactic and our positions. At 2-2, we were thinking we could make it. But we lost energy and could not come back when Japan scored again.”
FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019
Result: Japan 6, Poland 2 (cross-over)
Man of the Match: Kazuma Murata (JPN)
Umpires: Gus Soteriades (USA), David Sweetman (SCO)
Russia – South Africa
There were high expectations before this encounter between the second highest-ranked team of the tournament, South Africa, and a Russian side clearly on the rise after their challenging start against hosts India.
Both teams lived up to the expectations as they set a high tempo right from the start of this intensely contested game. The ball circulated quickly from one camp to the next throughout the first half with both teams creating good chances and defending well at the same time. Only goals were missing in this exciting game.
The second half followed the same pattern. The African champions and the European representatives multiplied the attempts on goal but both goalkeepers Marat Gafarov and Rassie Pietersee seemed invincible and their defences were performing well.
Halfway through the third quarter however, Nqobile Ntuli found the target following a penalty corner. But at the beginning of the next quarter, Russia equalised on a penalty corner by Georgii Arusiia. Was the fate of this game to be decided on penalty shootouts for the first time in this tournament? The answer eventually came from South African Ryan Julius who gave to his team a definitive lead. Russia tried hard to come back, but to no avail.
South Africa’s Nicholas Spooner: “We’re feeling pretty good. We didn’t play our best hockey tonight but we’re the winners at the end of the day against a good Russian side, so in these conditions we’re happy to get to the semi-finals. We didn’t have the best start against the USA in this tournament. It’s always hard from a South African point of view as we don’t have a lot of time together. We’ll be looking to put pressure on them and hopefully get a win there.”
Russia’s Pavel Golubev: “I’m really disappointed about our loss because we came here to win as usual and we had a lot of great opportunities to score. This game was even but I think we had more chances to score and we didn’t manage to do this. It’s our main problem nowadays. So, we’ll work to make it better.”
FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019
Result: Russia 1, South Africa 2 (cross-over)
Man of the Match: Austin Smith (RSA)
Umpires: Eduardo Lizana (ESP), Sébastien Duterme (BEL)
The action continues on 14 June with the following programme:
08:00* (IST) Russia – Poland (match for 5th place)
17:00 (IST) USA – South Africa (semi-final)
19:15 (IST) India – Japan (semi-final)
* In order to adjust to the current high temperatures affecting Bhubaneswar and considering that the welfare of athletes, fans, volunteers, officials and everyone involved in an FIH event is paramount, FIH has decided that the game will start at 8am (IST), instead of 8:45am (IST) as initially planned.