Twelve has now become eight, as we finally have the quarter-final pairings in the women’s tournament at the World Championships in Fukuoka.
There were no surprises in terms of results in the round of sixteen today; Australia, Spain, Italy, and Canada all displayed a level of security in their defeats of Israel, France, New Zealand, and South Africa, respectively. Although none of the games hinged on a knife-edge, all four of the losing teams, which now fall into the 9th-12th classification matches, will be spirited by the account they gave against significantly stronger and more established sides.
Quarterfinals (July 24) – QF1: United States vs Italy QF2: Netherlands vs Canada, QF3: Greece vs Australia, QF4: Hungary vs Spain
Semifinals: (July 26): SF1: United States/Italy vs Netherlands/Canada SF2: Greece/Australia vs Hungary/Spain
Final Day (July 28)
But now, the tournament really heats up with four incredibly exciting quarter-finals.
The reigning champions, the United States, will face Italy in the quarter-finals, a side they haven’t lost to since the 2015 World Championships in Kazan. Meanwhile, Canada will attempt to stop the high-flying Netherlands, a side they defeated in their last meeting back at the World League Super Finals in Tenerife last November.
Greece and Australia always provide excellent entertainment, and with both teams so evenly matched, their quarter-final will be a blockbuster. The last quarter-final will be between Hungary and Spain, with the Magyars aiming to defeat the Spanish having lost the previous seven meetings in all competitions.
Israel, New Zealand, France, and South Africa are all fighting for the 9th-12th places. Israel meets New Zealand in their semi-final, three weeks after the Israelis narrowly defeated the Kiwis 12-11. France will back themselves to beat South Africa to secure back-to-back top-10 finishes at the World Championships.
Cross-over Fixtures, 22nd July
Australia, Spain, Italy all have a proven track record at the World Championships, and although the up and coming nations such as Israel, New Zealand and France are getting closer to competing with the top teams, they were unable to make a breakthrough in the round of sixteen in Fukuoka.
Australia earned a confident 16-7 victory over Israel. Despite the possibility of slipping up against Europe’s sixth-best team, the Australian side from Down Under extinguished any hopes for Israel early on, taking a commanding 7-1 lead within the first eight minutes. Israel struggled to find the net, managing only two goals in the middle 16 minutes of the game.
Clinical finishes on the breakaway and a player advantage contributed to the Aussies’ comprehensive win. Notably, Tilly Kearns was instrumental in earning 9 out of 10 powerplay opportunities, with the Aussie’s converting an impressive 60% of them. Elle Armit stood out as the top scorer, launching four goals past Ayelet Peres in the Israeli goal, two of which came in the third period.
The reigning European Champions, Spain, didn’t slip up against France, taking a 16-9 win.
Despite a valiant effort from Theo Lorantos’ side, his team couldn’t hold off the quality of the Spaniards.
Anni Espar’s two early scores provided an initial advantage for Spain, while Judith Forca’s late strike helped maintain a slim two-goal lead at halftime. However, in the second half, Spain’s dominant performance, especially from Forca with five goals, secured their progression to the next round. Camelia Boloukbachi showcased real promise for France with two goals, but the loss of key player Orsolya Hertzka due to injury early in the game was a blow, and potentially a cause for concern moving forward in the competition.
Italy proved too strong for New Zealand, securing a 14-7 victory and securing their place in the final-eight.
New Zealand struggled to reach their full potential, allowing Italy to exploit their defensive lapses and score crucial breakaway goals. Dafne Bettini led Italy’s scoring with three goals, most of which came from transitions on the right side. Additionally, four players – Tabani, Giustini, Picozzi, and Bianconi – scored double figures for Italy.
In the last game of the day, Canada had a comfortable match against South Africa, emerging victorious with a 15-6 scoreline. While South Africa displayed joy and enthusiasm, Canada’s prowess proved overwhelming.
Emma Wright, Vouliagmeni’s left-hander, was the standout player with five goals, while Verica Bakoc, returning from injury, netted three times. Kelsey White provided a memorable moment for South Africa with an incredible 13-meter shot off the post and into the net.
It was, at long last, a decent day for the two best Asian sides in the competition, with both Japan and China securing their first victories of the tournament. Japan defeated Argentina convincingly, 21-11, while China beat Kazakhstan by ten clear goals (16-6). Fukuoka will see a re-run of the 2022 Asian Championship final between China and Japan (which China won convincingly) which will determine who will finish 13th.
Kazakhstan and Argentina will meet one last time to avoid finishing last, in a rematch of last year’s 11th place play-off in Budapest. Kazakhstan won that meeting 12-6.