[img_assist|nid=7542|title=FIH World League|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=100]Belgium showed that there are ready for this competition, relentlessly attacking the Portuguese goal to finish with a comfortable win (19-0). Canada won a tough battle against Scotland, holding on to a two-goal lead (5-3). Host France had an early scare against Poland but finally won another hotly contested match (4-2).
Belgium vs. Portugal: 19-0 (half-time: 9-0)
The first match of the World League Round 2 in Saint-Germain started under overcast sky and a light drizzle, with a number of player getting their first taste of international play: Emmanuel Stockbroekx and Tanguy Cosyns for Belgium, Hugo Ferreira, Paulo Mendes, Miguel Rodrigues and William Rogerson for Portugal.
It did not take long for Belgium to stake their claim on the match, Tom Boon powering a penalty-corner past Pedro Santos in the Portuguese goal to open the scoring within 3 minutes of play. He doubled his tally a few minutes later on a deflection from close range, then Jerome Dekeyser promptly added another penalty-corner, and future was looking bleak for the Portuguese squad with still an hour to go.
The Portuguese players were fighting valiantly but were overwhelmed by the experience and superior skills of their opponents. Tom Boon scored 4 times, and 5 other players put their name on the score-sheet in first period for a score of 9-0 at half-time.
Belgium cruised through second period without exerting themselves too much. Portugal never let go and maintained their compact structure in defense, but play was confined in their defensive half and they were constantly under pressure. The last 15 minutes were too much for the Portuguese players and they could not prevent Belgium to score at will, 10 goals in second period for a final score of 19-0.
Tom Boon put 7 goals to his name, Jerome Dekeyser 3, and Tanguy Cosyns celebrated his first Cap with a sweet reverse stick deflection from close range.
For more information and pictures of BEL vs. POR, click here.
Canada vs. Scotland: 5-3 (half-time: 4-2)
Before the match, William Marshall (Scotland) was honored for his 100th International Cap. Nicholas Parkes was playing in his first international match for Scotland, while Matthew Sarmento was earning his first Cap for Canada.
The match started at full speed between two teams eager to see some real action after weeks of practice prior to the competition. Canada drew first blood within 5 minutes of play by Matt Guest, cleanly beating the keeper with a reverse-stick shot on a cross from the right, then Keegan Pereira added another goal, collecting the ball after a broken penalty-corner and surprising James Cachia in the Scottish goal with a low shot.
Things were looking bright for Canada, but Scotland promptly closed the gap with a superb penalty-corner by Niall Stott, leaving no chance to Antoni Kindler in the Canadian goal after the initial shot was blocked by the runners. Canada immediately forced another penalty-corner on a swift combination between Matt Guest and Mark Pearson on the right; the corner led to a penalty-stroke and Scott Tupper did not miss the chance to re-establish a two-goal cushion for Canada.
The see-saw continued, with both teams conceding an own goal in a few minutes. Play was flowing quickly from one end to the other, much to the pleasure of the crowd .Canada had a slight advantage in possession but were regularly under pressure, and needed to survive a penalty-corner in the last seconds of the period to go into the break on a 4-2 score. It was however clear that nothing was done and the result could swing either way in this opened and balanced match.
Canada were promptly on the attack in second period, but could not seriously threaten James Cachia in the Scottish goal, and the first opportunity was for Scotland, forcing a penalty-corner after stealing a ball from a defender. The set-piece was well defended by Canada, and play continued at a fast pace, with the goal-keepers called into action at both ends.
Scotland earned a penalty-stroke on a stick obstruction in a melee in front of the goal, and Niall Stott scored his second goal of the match, closing the gap once more to one goal… but only for a few seconds as Mark Pearson collected the ball in traffic in the Scottish circle on the next action and slammed it in goal. 5-3 and fifteen minutes to go, the crowd was enjoying the attacking display!
Play became more physical in the last ten minutes, with Scotland pushing forward and Canada keeping them at bay. Opportunities became scarce and Canada earned the 3 points of the win after an intense battle. They will be happy with their form for their first match in six months, while Scotland can be satisfied of their fierce resistance against a better ranked team.
For more information and pictures of CAN vs. SCO, click here.
France vs. Poland: 4-2 (half-time: 2-1)
Before the match, Szymon Hutek (Poland) was honored for his 100th International Cap, and his teammate Mateusz Poltaszewski for his 50th Cap, while Michal Kasprzyk earned his first Cap for Poland.
With sun finally back and a good crowd cheering them on, France started at full speed and forced a penalty-corner on their first action, but their option fizzled and it was soon the turn of the Poles to have a chance at the other end: Piotr Kozlowski did not go for subtleties and powered the ball over the head of the French defenders to grab the early lead.
France settled their nerves and tried to take control of play, but their intense activity was hindered by too many unforced errors to be really threatening. Matthieu Durchon had a good opportunity, but Arkadiusz Matuszak stood tall in the Polish goal to block the violent shot from close range. France were finally rewarded of their efforts after 20 minutes, when a shot by Gaspard Baumgarten eluded the keeper’s glove.
With the score back at parity, France continued their relentless assaults and had a golden opportunity to take the lead on an open net, but a Polish defenders arrived from nowhere for a miraculous save on the high shot. The end of period was clearly dominated by France, but Poland did not lose their structure under pressure and were matching step for step the relentless pace of their opponent.
France finally took the lead with 2 minutes to go in the period, when Martin Genestet managed to steal a ball from a defender and delivered a pass for Matthieu Durchon sliding in front of the goal, celebrating in style his return in the French team after 4 years of retirement. Les Bleus resumed on the same tempo after the break, monopolizing the ball and threatening the Polish circle, but the Poles were holding tight. They even had a chance on a swift solitary counter-attack by Krystian Makowski that split the French defense and was only stopped by a desperate attempt by Martin Zylbermann in the French goal.
Hugo Genestet gave a more comfortable cushion to France in the 47th minute, sliding behind the keeper to collect a loose ball and deflect it in goal. The local crowd was now breathing more comfortably, pushing their team for more goals. However, the French, too focused on attacking, left space to the high Polish attackers and Karol Majchrzak scored a solidary goal with less than 5 minutes to go, setting up a torrid end of match.
The score was settled by Martin Genestet, scoring with a couple minutes to go after a phenomenal run by Matthieu Durchon, carrying the ball over 50m, dragging the keeper on one side and delivering a gem of a pass for his teammate for an easy tap-in in front of the empty goal. France will be happy with their reaction after their shaky start, while Poland are already with their back to the wall in the tight race for qualification.
For more information and pictures of FRA vs. POL, click here.
Schedule for Tuesday May 7:
13h00: Belgium vs. Scotland
15h30: Canada vs. Poland
18h00: Portugal vs. France
*All information taken from FIH.ch written by Yan Huckendubler