The first quarter-finals of the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Finals in Auckland produced two superb games and two unexpected results. In the opening
match, the lowest ranked team at the event, Korea, showed immense character to see off the challenge from Germany, including beating Die Danas in the
The second match ended in heartbreak for the reigning champions Argentina but unadulterated joy for hosts New Zealand as the Black Sticks overcame
a weak start to produce a courageous victory against a Las Leonas onslaught of pressure. The opening quarter-final was a humdinger of a match
that see-sawed from end to end as Korea (ranked ninth in the world) beat Germany (ranked seventh). The defining quality of the game was the
variety of penalty corner routines from both teams but it was also a match that saw both sides threaten to boil over at times, so intense was
the competition. In the early part of the game Germany dominated possession, and in the ninth minute, their persistence was rewarded when Nike
Lorenz scored from a penalty corner. The tall defender's shot flew high past the goalkeeper Jang Soo Ji.
Despite spending much of the first half chasing the ball, whenever Korea gained possession they looked dangerous and Germany were made
to pay when Cho Hyejin scored the equaliser, a beautifully taken reverse stick shot that left Julia Ciupka in the German goal with
no chance of saving it.
Five minutes into the second half and Korea's probing and decisive running paid off as they moved into the lead through a high quality
penalty corner scored by Jang Heesun.
Just one minute later Marie Mavers scored the equaliser, also from a penalty corner. The ball was well trapped at the top of the
circle and slipped right to Mavers who needed no invitation to fire home. The next few minutes saw Germany in the ascendency
again as they pushed and pushed to get ahead in this intriguing encounter. Lisa Altenburg had the chance to put her side ahead
when she lifted the ball high over the keeper only to see her shot hit the crossbar. From the back, Lorenz and Janne Muller-Weiland
continued to send searching passes through to the forwards. But each time a German player received the ball, they found themselves
under close attention from Korea's energetic defensive line.
With the scores locked at 2-2, tempers became frayed as tackles flew in and neither side was allowed to play with any rhythm.
The next breakthrough came from a fantastic corner routine from the German team. The sharp dummy shot from Muller-Weiland
confused the whole defence and Charlotte Stapenhorst slipped the ball across to Lorenz who flicked home with deadly
accuracy to score her second goal of the match. Straight back down the other end went the action as Korea came back
to win a penalty corner. If the German routine had been slick, this one was sublime. The neatest of 360 degree swivel
turns from Jang Heesun created space and she slipped the ball to Park Mi Hyun. Park's cross found Park Seunga who slapped
The final quarter was a testy affair. An Hyoju of Korea and Germany's Hannah Granitzki were sent to the sin-bin
within seconds of the match re-starting as tackles flew in and words were exchanged. Still both teams probed
each other's defences seeking for gaps and chances. Germany won a penalty corner but couldn't convert and the
resulting clearance found Park Seunga up field with just the 'keeper to beat. Ciupka stood tall and held Park
wide until her defence arrived. Teresa Martin Pellegrina showed enormous skill to get past four players into
the Korea circle. She was halted abruptly by a Korea player's shoulder and the game re-started with a bully-off.
Minutes from the final whistle, a ball from Lorenz found Stapenhorst, whose searching pass landed at Altenburg's
feet in front of Korea 'keeper. Jang was quick to the danger and the ball was sent clear. Hong Ji Seon
nicked the ball in midfield and shot towards the German goal to set up another attack with just 20
seconds on the clock. As the Korea side poured forward, it was German striker Marie Mavers who used
a cool head to make a vital tackle and clear the ball to send her side to shoot-out.
It was a very relaxed German quintet who stepped up for the shoot-out but on this occasion the
confidence was misplaced. First Lisa Altenburg, then Mavers, then Stapenhorst missed their
opportunities, while their counterparts, Park Mi Hyun, Park Seunga and Cho Eunji all scored.
As Ciupka sank to her knees in despair, Korea and their highly expressive coach Huh Sang Young
danced around the pitch with undiluted joy. As she regained her composure, Youngran Kim said:
"I am really speechless about this victory. Actually, during the shoot-out I was confident.
We have a great 'keeper and we were confident in her ability."
Her counterpart Janne Muller-Weiland said: "We had our chances and we really should have
won this game. We didn't deal with the fact that they are good in front of the goal
but we have developed throughout this tournament and we take that to the World Cup."
The opening minutes of the second quarter-final had all the makings of a comfortable
Argentina win as captain Delfina Merino put her side ahead within two minutes.
For the remainder of the quarter, it was largely one way traffic as the blue and
white team surged forward, spearheaded by the wonderful skills of Martina Cavallero,
Agustina Albertarrio and Maria Granatto. Cavalerro hit the post and it seemed just
a matter of time before the lead was extended.
However after the quarter break, it was New Zealand who looked the sharper. A sharp
passing move found Stacey Michelesen in front of Belen Succi's goal but the
midfielder was unable, on this occasion, to take advantage of the situation
and her shot flew wide. Argentina nearly made it 2-0 when Merino's shot was
caught under 'keeper Sally Rutherford's 'pads. The keeper showed great agility
to get her body out of the way and the ball was cleared to safety.
A rare slip by Noel Barrionuevo saw New Zealand win their first penalty
corner of the match. Shiloh Gloyn ran the ball into the circle and
found an Argentina foot. Olivia Merry's hard shot was saved by Succi
and the ball cleared by Lucinda van der Heyde.
As the players trooped off for the half-time break, the match outcome
seemed to have an inevitability about it. Argentina had dominated
without extending their lead. Surely it was only a matter of time
before the mesmerising skills of Las Leonas would see more goals.
What happened next had the crowds at North Harbour on their feet.
First Brooke Neal powered home a penalty corner to even the score
and then the inimitable Stacey Michelsen got a deflection on a
second penalty corner to put her team ahead. This was a just reward
for the New Zealand captain as she had been playing like a woman
possessed, hassling and harrying the Argentina attack in a defensive
role and then powering down the wing to set up attack after attack.
With one quarter left to play, Argentina's coach Agustin Corradini
needed to find a way to lift his team. Las Leonas came out with
renewed intention and the first few minutes saw huge pressure from
the combined talents of Maria Granatto and Martina Cavallero.
Michelsen led her team in a backs-to-the wall defence but still
Merino managed to find space to crash the ball into the
side netting. A penalty corner from Noel Barrionuevo was
chased down by Brooke Neal and Sam Harrison crashed the
ball down the pitch to safety. Albertarrio was the next
Argentina player to put the New Zealand defence under pressure.
Her run scythed through the Black Stick’s defence to win
a penalty corner. Again bodies were on the line as the
Black Sticks weathered two consecutive penalty corners
before winning a hit-out. Argentina continued to ask questions
of New Zealand but the lower-ranked team held firm and
took some of the heat out of the Argentina attack. Time
and again Kelsey Smith, Ella Gunson and Rose Keddell won
the ball and ran the ball up the field. If there was a
criticism of this New Zealand team it was that they failed
to slow the ball down when that would have been the less
risky thing to do – however, their continued runs through
the middle of the field certainly added to the tension
and excitement of the packed crowds.
With five minutes left a run from Cavallero resulted
in a penalty corner but who else but Michelsen
chased it down. There were still four minutes on
the clock when Argentina took their 'keeper off
the pitch and the Black Sticks braced themselves
for further onslaught. But try as they might, the
Argentina attack were unable to capitalise on the
field-player advantage. A combination of gutsy
defence by New Zealand and poor finishing from
Argentina meant that the Black Sticks – who had
performed poorly in the pools – would march onto
the semi-finals and an encounter with either England
or the USA. An astonishingly calm Stacey Michelsen
said after the game: “This is a pretty awesome
feeling. All week we had played well in the midfield
but couldn't score but today we did it right all
over the pitch."
Argentina’s captain Delfina Merino said: “Today
we lose so yes we are disappointed but as a
team we are growing. The quarter-finals are
tough. in 2015 we didn't do well in the pool
then we won our quarter final. Today, we had
all the possession but couldn't score. You
have to play intelligently in these tournaments.”
Germany v Korea 3-3 (Korea win on shoot-out)
Argentina v New Zealand 1-2