[img_assist|nid=3409|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=175|height=168]Ireland secured its spot in Sunday’s Olympic qualifier final with a 3-2 win against Spain. The win also secured Belgium’s place in the final game as both Ireland and Belgium are unbeaten with 12 points.
The final will be played at 3.30pm UK time (4.30pm local) in Kontich, Belgium. See http://www.fih.livesport.tv for live streaming (£2.99).
The demise of Spain at this qualification event has been a complete surprise as the Spaniards came in as the top-seeded team at the tournament and favorites with a 11th place in the FIH World Ranking. Instead Spain’s offense sputtered in its last three games, as it’s scored just four goals in its last three games.Ireland has put in a steady performance at this Athlon Car Lease FIH Road to London tournament. Ireland’s consistency has been the key to its success, rolling to four wins in four games with a +13 goal differential.
Audrey O’Flynn led the Irish charge, scoring two Irish penalty corner goals in the first half. Her first effort came six minutes into the game , but was answered less than a minute later when Barbara Malda put in a reverse shot between the legs of the Irish goaltender.
Spain sparked to life after the goal and dominated the action, but couldn’t get the go-ahead tally. Instead, it was O’Flynn to give the Irish the lead at the break with a solid short corner flick.
Spain took itself out of contention in the second half with a breakdown in discipline taking card after card which thwarted any attempt at gaining momentum. Once they were back at even strength, the Spanish put pressure on the Irish, but Ireland’s captain Alexandra Speers put in the clinching goal with nine minutes left in game bringing the ball down the field and scoring the 3-1 goal. Spain scored a last-ditch effort to make things tense in the waning minutes, but ultimately Ireland hung on for the 3-2 win.
Ireland coach Gene Muller said: “It was a fantastic win for us in a very high pressure match. The players put in a great performance and we got what we deserved. “
In the end, all Spain could do was watch the seconds on the clock tick away as their London 2012 dream disappeared. It is the first time since the Seoul 1988 Olympics that the Spanish women’s team will not be there.
The win makes Friday’s games, the final day of round robin, a bit of a farce as the line-up will now be the exact same pairings as on the final day.