A week’s worth of FIH Hockey World League first round action culminated in the men’s final match between China and Sri Lanka, where the former emerged victorious via penalties.
Meng Dihao of China (in blue) takes a shot against Sri Lanka during the final of round 1 of the 2016 Hockey World League at Sengkang Hockey Stadium on April 17, 2016 in Singapore. Photo: Sport Singapore
The international field hockey competition, into its third edition, is organized by the International Hockey Federation and is a qualifier for the 2018 Hockey World Cup.
Standing tall at 19th in the world, the Chinese are the highest ranked among the participating countries in the men’s tournament and easily blitzed past their opponents with ease.
However, they were put to test by the Sri Lankans who tied the match at three apiece to force a penalty shootout. Superior defending by custodian Wang Hongyu helped the Chinese to win 4-2 on penalties.
In the bronze medal game, Thailand defeated hosts Singapore 3-1 to earn themselves a round 2 qualification alongside China and Sri Lanka.
Lee Chee Yong (centre) of Singapore contests for the ball against Palipat Utairatanakit (left) and Adisuan Suphawong of Thailand during the bronze medal match of round 1 of the 2016 Hockey World League at Sengkang Hockey Stadium on April 17, 2016 in Singapore. Photo: Sport Singapore
Said an elated Thai assistant coach Phirath Chotitamarath: “I told my team to just control and defend and to take it slow. When Singapore lost the ball, attack fast.”
“I am very happy because it’s so long (since we defeated Singapore). My team lost to Singapore every time we played.”
In the women’s tournament, however, top-seeded Kazakhstan did not share a similar fate as the Chinese men. The world number 33 were upset twice in a row, as they went down to Hong Kong 2-3 on penalties and 1-3 against Thailand.
However, they still managed to eke out a second-place finish following a 3-0 victory over Singapore in their final match.
Following the win against Kazakhstan, the Thais, who are just two world ranks below, cemented their top spot in round one by defeating Hong Kong 7-0 in their final round robin match.
The Singapore women’s third-placed finish and round two qualification earned praises from head coach David Viner.
Vera Domashneva of Kazakhstan controls the ball against Singapore during round 1 of the 2016 Hockey World League at Sengkang Hockey Stadium. Photo: Sport Singapore
“Our girls were really good today. We were 3-0 down but we continued to take the bigger Kazakhstan girls on, who are way higher-ranked than us.
“We managed to shake them (Kazakhstan) in the match and you can see the excitement and how hard the game was for them to win it, so I’m really pleased”
The Australian added: “The way the girls performed was exceptional, considering the youth of the team and the hard work. Way way above A+.”