Saturday, April 28, 2012

21 goals in three games...

China's Yixian Liu had a hat trick in his team's 8-0 win against Brazil(Photo: Stantislas Brochier)

South Africa 6, Czech Republic 2

Top-seeded South Africa stayed unbeaten at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Kakmigahara, Japan after earning a 6-2 win against the Czech Republic. Justin Reid-Ross continued to be the South African scoring machine, this time scoring twice in the victory.
    It was a game of spurts for the South Africans, who were only able to solve the stoic Czech defense in for a few minutes at a time, but nevertheless those quick surges were enough to power the South Africans through to their second victory.
   Early on, it looked like South Africa would walk all over the Czechs with two goals in the first five minutes. Reid-Ross picked up right where he left off against Brazil, firing in an early penalty corner for the 1-0 lead. Timothy Drummond double the lead a few minutes later with a sprawling effort. But a defensive lapse by South Africa gave the Czechs a window to march downfield and put in the 2-1 marker.
   That goal stalled the South African offense, which spent the next 20 minutes fruitlessly trying to find a way past the Czech defense. In the last five minutes of the half, Lloyd Norris Jones and Lance Louw put in rapid fire goals to give the South Africans a convincing 4-1 lead at the break.
   The Czechs had a strong start to the second half and once again frustrated the South African offense, The defensive stand allowed the Czechs to climb back into the game when Stepan Bertanek scooped up a rebound to make it a two-goal game early in the second half. But with the focus on defense, the Czechs couldn’t make up the lead that South Africa built in the first half. Reid-Ross put in a goal midway through the half and Thornton McDade scored in the last minute to bring the final to 6-2.
Japan 4, Austria 1

Host Japan joined South Africa and China as the three co-leaders of the Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament after earning its second win in as many games with a 4-1 win against Austria. The loss leaves Austria looking for its first win and on the brink of elimination from contention for a place in the final.
    Austria was lucky to escape the first half with just a 2-0 deficit as the Japanese applied extraordinary pressure. Austrian goalkeeper Michale Manthler was kept busy in net and made an amazing save just as time expired to keep things close at the break. Japan also hit the post during the half and had several other near misses.
    The two goals that did go in during the first 35 minutes was a penalty corner marker by Katsuyoshi Nagasawa and a thrifty chip in from Toshiro Tachibana.
   Austria had a more settled second half and Japan found itself with fewer scoring chances. Hiroki Sakamoto got things started with his solid shot five minutes into the half but after the initial strike, Japan was held scoreless for more than 20 minutes. Austria had one glimmer of hope when Michael Korper put in the lone Austrian goal of the game, but Japan put in one last goal to restore the three-goal lead and bring the final to 4-1.
   Austria will play a key game against the Czech Republic on Monday. Basically the winner of that will keep a slim chance alive of making it to London. Japan will look to stay unbeaten with its game against Brazil.

Brazil 0, China 8

China earned its second shutout victory, although today’s 8-0 decision over Brazil was definitely more convincing than the 1-0 win against Austria on the opening day
    China’s penalty corner was lethal, accounting for five of the eight goals. Especially strong on the penalty corner was drag flicker Yixian Liu, who fired in three short corner goals in the win. Liu put in the opening goal four minutes into action and back-to-back markers in the last three minutes.
   In between Liu’s bookend goals, it was all China as they controlled virtually every aspect of the game. The Japanese fans rallied around the Brazilian team for their fighting spirit, but China was technically the dominant team and there was little Brazil could do to stop them.
   Both teams have the day off tomorrow before resuming round robin action. Brazil has another tough test on Monday when they take on Japan, while China will also have its hands full with current tournament leader, South Africa.