[img_assist|nid=7542|title=FIH World League|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=150|height=150]Belgium cruised to a second comfortable victory against Scotland (7-1); Canada came back from a one-goal deficit to win a hard-fought and important encounter against Poland (3-1); France also collected a win, but cannot be happy with the many chances they wasted before beating Portugal (6-0). Teams are now split in a group with 3 wins (Belgium, France and Canada) and another group with 3 losses (Poland, Scotland and Portugal).
Belgium vs. Scotland: 7-1 (half-time: 4-1)
Day 2 of World League Round 2 in Saint-Germain started under bright sunshine, a welcomed change from the rain on opening day. Both teams showed up in an attacking mood; Scotland immediately pushed back Belgium on their heels and forced two penalty-corners. Their options generated good shots but were well defended. The Scots kept pressing high to try and prevent their more experienced opponents to develop their game, however Belgium progressively took control of play, passing the ball away from the Scottish press.
Belgium opened the scoring in the 10th minute, Sebastien Dockier managing to propel high in goal a messy ball bouncing in the circle. He doubled his tally on the next action and the Scots were suddenly facing a 2-goal deficit and a steep road ahead. Belgium were unsuccessful on a series of penalty-corner, but Florent Van Aubel increased the gap to 3-0 in the 20th minute, taking more wind out of the Scottish sail.
Scotland never gave up and were rewarded in the final minutes of the period, with Callum Duke at the conclusion of a swift movement penetrating the circle on the right. But there was still enough time for Tom Boon to add a penalty-corner on the buzzer and half-time was reached on a 4-1 score reflecting well the period.
Belgium continued on their momentum and Loïck Luypaert scored early with a powerful penalty-corner flick high over the head of the defenders. Tom Boon followed suit soon after with a flick perfectly positioned in the top corner of the goal, leaving absolutely no chance to Allan Dick in the Scottish goal for that match.
With time passing, the Scots seemed to feel the effect of their hard match against Canada the day before and play was mostly confined in their half of the pitch. They however defended well, showing good individual technic under pressure and keeping the Belgian attackers at bay. In the final minute, they took advantage of a lack of focus in the Belgian ranks and had a few desperate attempts that came close, but the score did not change until the dying seconds when Tanguy Cosyns pushed the score to 7-1.
Belgium earned their second win of the competition, leaving Scotland with 2 losses.
For more information and pictures of BEL vs. SCO, click here.
Canada vs. Poland: 3-1 (half-time: 0-1)
Canada and Poland had met 4 times in official competitions in the last year and their confrontations have always been tight affairs decided by one goal. This match promised to be similar, both teams starting at full speed and trading blow for blow. The first real chance was for Poland after a long run by Dariusz Rachwalski, but Dave Carter stood tall in the Canadian goal to thwart the attack. Canada also had a good chance after a patient buildup but the ball eluded the stick of Gabriel Ho-Garcia alone in front of the Polish keeper.
Neither team could take control of play and action was swinging wildly from end to end, much to the pleasure of the crowd enjoying the show (and the sun). Canada earned a penalty-corner after 20 minute of play, but Gordon Johnston’s low flick was well saved by Arkadiusz Matuszak in the Polish goal. Soon after, Poland exploited well a lost ball by the Canadian defense and Mateusz Hulboj scored after avoiding the Canadian keeper waiting for him at the top of the circle.
Canada started to play with more urgency and had another chance on penalty-corner but their fancy option was countered by the Polish defense. They dominated the end of period but to no avail and the Poles kept their narrow 1-goal lead into the break.
Second period started on the same pattern, an intense and balanced battle. Canada had a couple of chances by Richard Hildreth and Matt Guest, but no cigar until the 47th minute when a penalty-corner evolved in a penalty-stoke, dutifully converted by Scott Tupper. The Canadians doubled their tally on the next action, Mark Pearson deflecting in goal Tupper’s low flick on penalty-corner. The match had changed in a few minutes and the Poles were now the ones fighting the uphill battle.
Canada needed to weather a period of intense Polish domination before increasing their lead by Iain Smythe, on hand to conclude a swift counter-attack with a deflection under the nose of the Polish keeper. The match lost momentum after some confusion when the Polish goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak received a yellow card on a penalty-corner, and Canada cruised to their second win of the competition, leaving Poland dejected with their 2 losses.
For more information and pictures of CAN vs. POL, click here.
Portugal vs France: 0-6 (half-time: 0-2)
Played on a beautiful sunny end of afternoon in front of a cheerful crowd of local fans, the last match of the day started at a relaxed pace, with France probably confident of the end result and Portugal still feeling the effect of their hard match against Belgium the night before.
France had a wake-up call when a Portuguese attacker left alone in the circle just missed the ball in front of Matthias Dierckens in goal, and they started to play with more purpose. After a missed opportunity on penalty-corner, France opened their tally in the 15th minute… courtesy of an own goal from a Portuguese defender. France scrambled a number of penalty-corners before Matthieu Durchon, left alone in the circle, finally propelled the ball in goal.
However, despite totally dominating the proceedings, Les Bleus were not playing with any urgency. They pushed up the pace in the final minutes of the period but, despite two balls rolling tantalizingly on the Portuguese goal line, the score was still 0-2 going into the break.
Second period was going along the same pattern, with France pilling up the missed opportunities and the crowd becoming impatient, until Lucas Sevestre slotted a good strike on a penalty-corner in the 45th minute, giving France a more reasonable 3-goal cushion.
The floodgates finally opened with ten minutes left in the match, and France pushed the score to 0-6 with goals form Lucas Sevestre (his 2nd), Arnaud Becuwe and Matthieu Durchon (also his 2nd of the match). The win keeps them in the lead pack of the competition, but they cannot be happy with the incredible number of opportunities they wasted along the way.
For more information and pictures of POR vs. FRA, click here.
Schedule for Thursday May 9:
13h00: Portugal vs. Canada
15h30: Poland vs. Scotland
18h00: France vs. Belgium
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