In Fukuoka, the Women’s World Championship tournament has reached the end of its group stage, unveiling an exciting tournament bracket as we head into the ‘knockout rounds’.
Following three days of intense action at the Marine Messe Hall, the United States, Netherlands, Greece, and Hungary have emerged as the dominant forces, securing their places in the world championship quarter-finals as group winners.
The matches on Day 3 were mostly formality for the USA, Netherlands, and Hungary, as they comfortably defeated their opponents. However, amidst the routine games, some crucial moments unfolded during the third day of the women’s tournament in Fukuoka, particularly in Group C.
Alexia Kammenou’s Greece delivered a stunning performance as they triumphed over Italy, 16-12, with an exceptional attacking display that guarantees Greece’s spot at the top of the group, automatically advancing them to the quarter-finals. Italy, now finishing second in Group C, faces the daunting task of going up against the formidable United States in the quarter-finals, provided they defeat New Zealand in the round of sixteen.
Group C also witnessed a historic victory for South Africa, as they secured a remarkable 12-9 win over Argentina, securing their first-ever top-12 finish in the championship’s history. Despite being considered the weakest side in the cross-overs, South Africa will rightfully celebrate their place into the round of sixteen.
In Group A, Australia cemented their second spot by defeating China 11-7, ensuring a favourable draw for the round of sixteen. A potential evenly matched quarter-final showdown with Greece awaits them if they can overcome Israel in the next round.
Canada ended Japan’s chances of a top-10 finish with a 17-12 win over the hosts.. The victory places Canada second in Group D, setting up a round of sixteen clash with South Africa. Japan’s three defeats from three means they finish bottom of the group.
As for France and New Zealand, they both suffered final day defeats, finishing third in their respective groups (A and D). Consequently, they now find themselves up against the challenge of highly competitive cross-over games, with France to take on the reigning European Champions Spain, while New Zealand is unlikely to cause an upset against Italy
Round of sixteen Fixtures, 22nd July
Australia vs Israel
France vs Spain
Italy vs New Zealand
South Africa vs Canada
ROAD TO MEDALS, WOMEN
Crossover round (July 22) – Match 1:Australia vs Israel, Match 2: France vs Spain,, Match 3: Italy vs New Zealand, Match 4: South Africa vs Canada
Quarterfinals (July 24) – QF1: United States vs Italy/New Zealand, QF2: Netherlands vs South Africa/Canada, QF3: Greece vs Australia/Israel, QF4: Hungary vs France/Spain
Semifinals: (July 26): winners QF1 – QF2, winners QF3 – QF4.
Final Day (July 28)
Team USA wrapped up group play with an impressive 16-5 win over France.
For the majority of the match the USA were at their brilliant best, leaving a disjointed French side lost for ideas. The reigning World and Olympic champions started with a real desire, with the Americans jumping to a 4-0 lead in the first, which they extended to 7-1 in the second quarter, and then to 11-2 in the third to take them out of sight. Tara Prentice continued her brilliant form in Fukuoka, leading the scoring for the Americans with four goals. Ashleigh Johnson had a busy afternoon, making a catalogue of solid saves.
Before then, Australia got back on track with a 11-7 win over China, with a much improved showing than their game with the USA 48 hours earlier. Despite trailing 1-0 inside the opening two minutes, the Stingers found the next five goals to stamp their authority on the contest. While China managed to craft some excellently taken shots, they never came within a single score again. Five Australians – Bronte Halligan, Amy Ridge, Zoe Arancini, Alice Williams and Tilly Kearns – notched a brace in the game.
The Australians now have a date with Israel in the cross-over rounds.
The Netherlands and Spain both netted 24 goals in their final group-games today.
The Dutch made Israel look incredibly average in the days last game, with Eva Doudesis’s Dutch side slicing through the Israeli’s 24-8. Kitty Joustra set the tone for the game, finding four goals inside the first four minutes, helping her team to lead 6-0 in the first quarter, and from there the Dutch never looked back. The Netherlands are automatically into the quarter-finals and will face the winner of South Africa or Canada for a place in a second successive World Championship semi-final.
The Spanish romped Kazakhstan 24-5, with captain Pili Pena leading by example with a four-goal game. Kazakhstan managed to score five outstanding goals, but were never a threat to the European Champions. Spain will face France in the cross-overs.
It came down to the final day, but it is Greece that have finished atop of Group C, and progress directly to the quarter-finals after a sensational 16-12 win over Italy.
The Greeks were inspired form in front of goal, taking an early 3-0 advantage and continuing from their at an unstoppable pace. By the end of the first half, Alexia Kammenou’s side had outscored the Setterosa 2 to 1 (10-5). Italy did make some improvements in the second half, but they had no answer to Greece’s clinical finishing, especially evident in their impressive 83% powerplay conversion rate (5 out of 6).
The Greek scoring prowess was distributed among several players, with Vasiliki and Eleftheria Plevritou, Nicoleta Eleftheriadou, and Eirini Ninou, all contributing three goals each. Italy showed glimpses of what they can do, but were dominated by an impressive showing from the Greece.
The big story elsewhere in the group is that South Africa have at least secured an historic top 12 place in the World Championships, already exceeding their best ever result. The Saffa’s pulled off a gutsy performance against Argentina – the same opponent that had denied them this achievement in last years tournament.
Chloe Meecham, Kelsey White, and Ruby Versfield played crucial roles in South Africa’s goal-scoring endeavours. However, the pivotal moment of the match came when Megan Maartens made two consecutive penalty saves during the second period when South Africa was trailing by a goal (3-2). These saves shifted the momentum in their favor, leading to three consecutive goals from Muller, Zondo, and Versfield. Despite the impressive performance of Argentina’s Juliet Auliel, who scored four goals in the game, they couldn’t catch up to the resolute South African team.
Its a monumental achievement for South Africa to reach the cross-overs, even if they are unlikely to progress past Canada. Their coach, Nicola Barrett, as well as a few players including Maartens, were visibly tearing up with joy after the match.
Japan’s outside hopes of a top-10 finish are well and truly over after suffering a third straight group-game defeat to Canada (17-12).
The Canadians deserve a lot of credit for their composure during the match, with impressive contributions from centre-forward Elyse Lemay-Lavoie and utility player Axelle Crevier. Japan was typically hearty but lacked threat in their counter-attack. Unable to find the goals they needed and stop the Canadian onslaught, they were caught on a bad day. A 13th-place finish is the best they can expect now.
Group D winners Hungary barely had to break a sweat in shrugging off New Zealand with a mighty 23-5 win ahead of their confirmed quarter-finals.
Although the gulf in quality between the two sides was evident today, New Zealand was some way off their best, allowing Hungary to pile on scores to an unflattering scoreline. Hungary was always going to take the victory, but the manner of defeat, more than the defeat itself, is the disappointing part for the Kiwis.
Hungary was particularly potent on the breakaway, hitting nine out of nine goals in transition. New Zealand was guilty of overcomplicating things, particularly with an extra player – where they only scored one goal from 12 chances.