Field Hockey Canada > The stage is set for Champions Challenge 1 Quarterfinals

Wednesday is a rest day for the teams ahead of the business end of the tournament when there’s all to play for in the quarter-finals on Thursday. The prize for the winners is a place in Saturday’s semi-finals with the sides already qualified for London 2012, Belgium and Argentina, facing the lesser-ranked Canada and Poland respectively. Eight-times former Olympic champions India meet Asian sub-continent rivals, Malaysia, with the hosts completing the line-up against Japan.

Canada paid the price for an ill-disciplined second-half display after they were reduced to nine players in the closing stages of the contest. After taking an early lead, the Asian side fought back to level the scores five minutes before the interval setting up a hard fought second-half.

Once Japan went 2-1 ahead, Canada struggled to match the fitness and quick counter-attacking style of their opponents. Unable to maintain their structure, they resorted to crude challenges resulting in Scott Tupper and Philip Wright being shown yellow cards.

David Carter was once again superb in Canada’s goal making a series of fine saves as Japan surged forward. Akira Takahashi, Japan’s assistant coach and a former captain of the national team said:” It is a very good result for us because we’re ranked four places below Canada in the world rankings. The team remained strong physically and mentally and worked very hard to get the win.”

The Pan-American champions turned in a sparkling second-half display to overrun a spirited Malaysian team with some clinical finishing. After trailing at the interval and with everything to play for, Argentina made sure they finished top of their group with an emphatic victory.

Pedro Ibarra and Alejandro Mazzilli each scored a brace to seal the result but Malaysia’s never-say-die approach saw them create several breakaway chances, one of which was converted by Amin Rahim.

After an unconvincing start to the tournament Argentina’s team manager Juan Manuel said he was very happy with the team’s progress. “We’re getting better and better” he said, “we finished strongly, were aggressive and put them under a lot of pressure in the second-half.”

There’s nothing Indian players enjoy more than putting the ball in the back of the net and they treated an appreciative crowd basking in the sunshine to a goal-feast. Clearly a class above their opponents, there were glimpses they are gradually getting back to their best under their Australian coach Michael Nobbs.

Seven field goals without reply told the story as India controlled the tempo, using their electrifying pace and silky skills to carve out a succession of scoring opportunities. Shivendra Singh helped himself to two goals before half-time as his side led 3-0 with Tushar Khandker twice on target after the break.

Nobbs clearly enjoyed watching his team demonstrate a combined India-Australia style. But he sounded a cautionary note saying there was a lot of very hard work ahead in the next twelve months if India are to recapture their former glories. “We have the talent which we showed against Poland and I thought it was well contested game played in a great spirit.”


It would have taken an extraordinary score for Belgium to overhaul India at the top of the table and although South Africa turned in a strong second-half, Belgium controlled the match for prolonged periods of the game rarely relinquishing the initiative.

Belgium quickly stamped their authority on the match, taking an early lead and stretching the home team’s defence. They had enough chances to shut South Africa out of the game but Andrew Cronje and Rhett Halkett both made spectacular clearances off the line, one shot pinged to safety off the post and goalkeeper Brendan Botes made some sharp saves.

Urged on by an enthusiastic crowd, the hosts surged forward at the start of the second-half pulling a goal back when Justin Reid-Ross powered in a penalty corner to reduce the deficit. In a hugely entertaining contest with chances at both ends, and a late flurry by South Africa, they found it impossible to find a way past a resolute Belgian defence.