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Women´s WFCQ 2017 AOFC - Day 5 – 04.02.2017
With all of the qualifying teams for the 2017 Women´s World Championships finalised, today we moved on to the other business of placings. And exciting business it was. One match went to penalty shots and two others were decided in extra time
Two matches for 5th-8th place started us off - New Zealand v Malaysia & Korea v China. Korea v China was the biggest score of the day with 11-0 for Korea, but China showed much improvement in their play, especially their goalkeeper, Han Jiang who was chosen today as their best player. For Korea, playing her first international tournament, Jisoo Choi shone, scoring 2+3. After the disappointment of yesterday´s loss to Thailand, the Korean women showed great spirit to play with enthusiasm and strength.
New Zealand against Malaysia was a nail-biter for the local supporters. The match was hotly contested with both teams having plenty of chances to attack. Malaysia were the ones with the more dangerous looking attacking play but the solid defence of the New Zealanders, something which has been constant in all of their games, was difficult to break. Early in the final period Malaysia looked to be getting the upper hand as they went out to a two goal lead and it felt like they might be able to keep the momentum going, but New Zealand fought back to tie it up at 3-3.
The game went to overtime but nobody could get the ball over the line again so it went down to penalty shots. Neither team had players with any textbook penalty shot skills but it made it an even matched competition. Both first shooters scored and then followed ten missed/saved shots before New Zealand´s Emma Molander got a positive result. It came down to the Kiwi keeper to save the next shot and the 4-3(ps) win was New Zealand´s.
With all the semi-final teams having already qualified for the WFC final round it meant that the teams could relax a little bit more and concentrate on playing some good floorball, which can often be lacking in games where players know that a mistake could really cost them.
Australia and Singapore women have a long rivalry stretching all the way back to when both teams entered floorball in 1999 and played against each other in their first ever international matches. In recent years Singapore has been the stronger team, but today there was nothing separating them. The Singapore team showed better individual floorball technique overall, while Australia still have a mix of those who cross-over from field hockey and those who concentrate only on playing floorball.
Jill Quek, who was part of that original 1999 team and who has become a significant figure in Singapore floorball as both a player and more recently as a coach, was playing like she did 10 years ago when she was dominating the scoring in the Finnish women´s league. Jill scored the only goal for Singapore early in the first period and Ashley Bourke scored for Australia in the final period. At 1-1, the match went into overtime, but the tight defence of the match was broken early with some good forechecking from Australia. They pressed the Singapore defence and Isabelle Newland got possession of the ball behind the goal. With the Singapore goalkeeper turned and guarding the far post, she made a perfect pass to Tara Meyer on the near post and the match was over with less than 1 minute of overtime played. 2-1ot for Australia and a place in the AOFC final.
Japan are the oldest Floorball country in Asia-Oceania, in fact older than many of the European Floorball associations, and they took on newcomer, Thailand in what turned out to be the best match of the tournament, so far. Competing in their first IFF event, the Thai women matched the effort of their men´s team last year, qualifying for the WFC final round on their first attempt - there are very few countries that can claim that feat.
In the past, Japanese teams were always difficult to beat with speed but they could struggle against a physical team. That is no longer the case. The current group of players is both technically strong individually and as a team, as well as being able to play a very physical game. In Thailand they certainly met a strong opponent. Many of the Thai players are top-level field hockey players and they are not afraid to use their bodies to compete for ball possession.
Many would have expected the far more experienced Japanese to dominate the match but someone clearly forgot to tell Thailand. Japan held the attacking position on the court but the Thai defence was not being broken. Both goalkeepers were playing important roles, but the Thai keeper, Somlak Suttipappa was having the tougher time to hold out the strong shooting Japanese. There was only a 90 second phase of play in the second period that saw 3 goals scored - two for Japan and one for Thailand. Thai equalised in the opening minutes of the final period and then there was no more breaks in the defences and overtime was for the third time today on the scoreboard.
The Thais have during the tournament improved their discipline, especially in regards of tackling with the stick, but when the pressure was on the overtime, old habits came back and they found themselves with two players in the penalty box. Playing 5 v 3 Japan had a big advantage and Yui Goto´s slapshot from about 10m out from goal in the centre of the court broke the deadlock. 3-2ot for Japan and a place in the final. Thailand will play Singapore in the bronze match, which will be a repeat of the SEA Games 2015 final, which Singapore won on penalty shots.
For all the standings and player statistics visit the AOFC Event Page.
Photos: Masanori Udagawa
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