FIH Champions Challenge II,
Semi-final: France 5 (Fabien Magner 2, Olivier Sanchez, Jean-Baptiste Pauchet, Lucas Sevestre) Scotland 3 (Fergus Dunn, Dan Coultas, Michael Christie)
France became the first finalist in Lille as they took a mad-cap game, coming from behind to get the better of a Scottish side who were somewhat the architects of their own downfall. Riding an early storm, they had nipped into the lead through Fergus Dunn’s simple tap-in and were boosted further when French skipper Francois Scheefer picked up his third sin-binning of the competition.
But rather than push on, in an orchestrated move from the coaches in the stands, they sat back rolled the ball around the back four. It cost them dear as, after 90 seconds of half-court, France burst into attack, nicked the ball and worked it forward.
It bounced kindly for Olivier Sanchez and he thumped home a reverse-volley that bounced through Mark Fulton’s pads.
Still with ten, the French earned an over-time corner and Fabien Magner planted the first of his two corners to nut-meg the hapless goalkeeper.
With Scheefer returning, France were two players up early in the second half when both William Marshall and Gareth Hall were shown yellow but it scarcely helped the hosts.
Dunn managed to breakaway and win a corner which Coultas brilliantly converted off the underside of the crossbar to level in the 42nd minute.
Parity did not last long, though, as Magner again found the route through Fulton for 3-2, Lucas Sevestre shovelled in from close range before Jean-Baptiste Pauchet slotted a simple fifth.
It took just an overhead from centre-back to the right-wing and a centre to the top of the circle to find the rangy striker and he coolly picked his corner; 5-2 in the 54th minute.
Kenny Bain was denied a certain goal, illegally in Suo Long You’s opinion, by Joost Jansen and he also missed the follow-up penalty stroke a minute later while Gareth Hall had a similarly gilt-edged chance. He made decent contact on the dive but Arnuad Becuwe came from nowhere to slide the shot around the post.
The Scots drop into Sunday’s bronze game and are likely to be without Gareth Hall. He was red carded three minutes from time for dissent having already taken a yellow; in total the Scots endured 22 minutes of suspensions. France, meanwhile, suffered just seven minutes of down-time and will play either Ireland or Russia.
Classification matches round-up
5th-8th place playoffs: China 3 (Yubo Na 2, Long Sun) Austria 2 (Manuel Grandits, Matthias Gero)
Long Sun’s goal seven minutes from time saw China move into the 5th-6th place playoff while Austria face the relegation match on Sunday. Austria had twice levelled, Manuel Grandits corner rebound and a straight shot from Matthias Gero but the Chinese speed from open play proved the European side’s undoing.
They were ahead inside six minutes, Yubo Na snagging his first and the spritely striker made it 2-1 in the 24th minute when he cut in from the right and flipped the ball past Philippe Thiltges from close range.
Czech Republic 2 (Jakub Kyndl) USA 1 (Kevin Barber)
Jakub Kyndl’s late penalty corner double earned the Czech Republic their second win over the USA in seven days, crucially this time avoiding the relegation playoff game. It took until the fourth quarter of the game for the goals to come, Kyndl eventually breaking the deadlock in the 57th minute after a lively, end-to-end, tie.
He took over the drag-flicking from the effective Tomas Prochazka to fire home what looked to be the vital goal. The Czechs subsequently looked content to run the time down until Stepan Bernatek stole in to win another corner 80 seconds from time.
Kyndl again applied the finish before Kevin Barber smacked home a fine consolation goal with three seconds to go but to no celebration, his side condemned to the seventh place playoff tomorrow.
** A reports from the semi-final between France and Scotland will appear in this post later today; for more pics from today’s action, check out The Hook’s facebook page