Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Double delight for Spain, heartbreak for Belgium women

Spanish men's hockey team edged out France in a thrilling second-leg, while China pipped Belgium women in a tense shoot-out in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers.

China women's hockey team scored in the 56th and 57th minute of the second-leg against Belgium and then won 2-1 in the shoot-out.   -  FIH Facebook

The first round of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers produced a string of nail-biting finishes as China, Australia and Spain's women's teams punched the ticket to Tokyo 2020 on Saturday. In the men's category, world no 8 Spain held its nerve to edge out France 3-2 in the second-leg after being tied 3-3 in the first-leg in Valencia.

The qualifier between 2018 World Cup finalist Netherlands and world no 17 Pakistan is poised on a knife-edge after the teams played out a thrilling 4-4 draw in the first-leg on Saturday in Amsterdam. Ireland goes into the second-leg against Canada with a two-goal advantage after it won the first-leg 5-3 in Vancouver.

China's women break Belgian hearts

China's defence put in a disciplined shift against in the second-leg to keep a cleansheet against Belgium.   -  FIH Facebook

 

World no 10 China staged a remarkable comeback from a 0-2 deficit in the first leg to beat Belgium 2-1 in shootout at Changzhou on Saturday.

Belgium women's team's place at the next year's Olympics looked secure following a 2-0 victory in the first-leg and three goalless quarters in the second-leg. However, China turned the tie around in the dying minutes of the final quarter as a penalty stroke from from Gu Bingfeng (56') followed by a field goal from Liang Meiyu (57') forced a shootout.

 

Chinese goalkeeper Li Dongxiao was the hero for China as she saved four Belgium penalties, while Na Wang and Li Jiaqi converted their chances to confirm a fifth Olympics appearance for the 2008 silver medallist. While the Chinese celebrated wildly, Belgium's Alix Gerniers, who missed the final penalty, hurled her stick in despair and had to lean on the advertising boards as she sobbed uncontrollably.

READ | Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Pakistan and Netherlands play out thrilling 4-4 draw

Australia women thrash Russia

Australia celebrates after scoring the second goal against Russia in the second-leg.   -  FIH Facebook

 

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Australia women’s team thrashed world no 19 Russia 9-2 on aggregate in the Olympic Qualifiers tie held in Perth.

In the first leg on Friday, Emily Chalker and Amy Lawton scored in the first two minutes of the game to put the Hockeyroos in a commanding position but goals Bogdana Sadovaia (8’) and Alina Khalimova (37’) pulled Russia level. However, Grance Stewart (38’) scored immediately while Chalker added a fourth in the 48th minute to win the game for Australia.

 

The host dominated the second leg on Saturday, smashing five first-half goals to win the tie 9-2. Mariah Williams (22’,30’) scored a brace while Grace Stewart (9’), Emily Chalker (27’) and Sophie Taylor (25’) also got on the score sheet.

Spanish men and women make the cut

Spain's men's team celebrates after scoring the third goal in the 3-2 second-leg win against France.   -  FIH Facebook

 

Spain's men's team prevailed over a spirited French side in a tense second-leg in Valencia which the host won 3-2 on Saturday.

In the first-leg on Friday, the Red Sticks were staring down the barrel after trailing 0-3 by the 29th minute. However, Xavi Lleonart converted a penalty stroke in the 30th minute, while dragflicker Pau Quemada (41', 50') found the net from two penalty corners to keep Spain's chances alive.

France started the second-leg on a strong note as Gaspard Baumgarten struck in the 3rd minute. However, Miguel Delas scored off a rebound in the 21st minute to pull the host level, while Alvaro Iglesias scored from a tight-angle in the 28th minute to make it 2-1 for Spain.

France was relentless in the second half as Francois Goyet's precise finish from a penalty corner levelled the scores. But Xavi Lleonart's dragflick in the next minute put Spain back in the lead, which it held on to confirm its 18th appearance at the Summer games.

In the women's qualifiers, Spain came back from one goal down to beat South Korea 2-1 in the first-leg on Friday and then registered a 2-0 victory in the second-leg to book a place in the 2020 Olympics.