Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pakistan and Japan on track

FIH World Cup Qualifier, Men – Lille, France
Results Day 1: Saturday 31 October 2009

Japan - Russia 4:0 (1:0)
JPN 6mn Kenta TANAKA (FG) 1:0
JPN 44mn Kazuhiro TSUBOUCHI (FG) 2:0
JPN 52mn Kenta TANAKA (FG) 3:0
JPN 67mn Kenta TANAKA (FG) 4:0

Pakistan - Italy 5:0 (1:0)
PAK 31mn Sohail ABBAS (PC) 1:0
PAK 43mn Muhammad IMRAN (PC) 2:0
PAK 47mn Sohail ABBAS (PC) 3:0
PAK 52mn Muhammad ZUBAIR (FG) 4:0
PAK 68mn Abdul Haseem KHAN (FG) 5:0

France - Poland 2:2 (1:1)
POL 17mn Marcin STRYKOWSKI (FG) 0:1
FRA 35mn Matthieu DURCHON (PC) 1:1
FRA 45mn Frédéric SOYEZ (PC) 2:1
POL 58mn Marcin STRYKOWSKI (FG) 2:2


The FIH World Cup Qualifier in Lille, France, started smoothly for the favorites, with Japan cleanly dispatching Russia (4-0) and Pakistan having no problem to defeat Italy (5-0), but France had an unexpected setback, tying a hardly contested game against Poland (2-2).

The competition is played on the new turf of the Lille Metropole Hockey Club, in a facility very well prepared by the French Hockey Federation and the local Organizing Committee. Day 1 was played in cool but sunny conditions.

Game 1 – Japan v. Russia: 4-0 (half-time: 1-0)

The opening game started at full speed, with both team eager to warm up in the cool morning. Japan promptly took advantage of a Russian unforced error in midfield to set a quick counter-attack that found Kenta TANAKA at the top of the circle for the first goal of the competition in the 6th minute. The game then settled down; Japan tried to overwhelm their opposition with their superior speed, but could not surprise the very athletic and well organized Russian team.

Game 2 – Pakistan v. Italy: 5-0 (half-time: 1-0)

Pakistan camped in the Italian defensive zone from the opening whistle and created multiple opportunities, but scrambled some good chances (including their first penalty-corner) and rookie Italian goal-keeper Davide GUIDA denied them the rest of the times. They pleased the crowd with some fancy stick work but tried to make the difference individually, and were pushed back by the well regrouped and composed Italian defense. It took Sohail Abbas, in the 31st minute, to place his team on the winning track.

Game 3 – France v. Poland: 2-2 (half-time: 1-1)

Boosted by a vibrant rendition of La Marseillaise by the home crowd, the French team immediately pushed forward, and Frédéric SOYEZ had the crowd on their feet in expectation with a deflection that shaved the cross bar. But the Polish defense was expecting this initial burst and absorbed well the pressure. The game became more balance, with the Poles mounting some dangerous counter-attacks, and it is finally Marcin STRYKOWSKI who opened the score in the 17th minute with a swift deflection that surprised Henri-Julien LHOMME in the French goal.