Beneath Monte Pisano, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all moved a step closer to World Cup qualification with semi-final berths.
Ireland overcame a sticky opening 30 minutes to eventually run riot against France, 4-1, in Pisa. An incisive second-half saw corner goals from Róisín Upton and Hannah McLoughlin before a flurry of late goals saw Zara Malseed and debutante Niamh Carey also on the mark. The PC stoppages and goals were interspersed with an array of classical music as Ireland began to find their own rhythm.
On Saturday, Ireland women will now meet Belarus, who routed Russia 7-1 in the opening game and Darya Belavusava netting a hat-trick.
Upton said: “We knew we needed to win corners; the execution in the first half wasn’t so good so we had to pick it up and nail it. Getting on the scoresheet early in the second half settled everyone.”
Scotland also moved through the gears as they beat Austria to set up a home nations semi-final clash against Wales on Saturday.
Fiona Burnett scored either side of half-time with two well-worked PC goal deflections while Sarah Jamieson secured victory five minutes from time.
Finishing the day, Wales were superb value for beating hosts Italy 1-0 in a tight game.
Sarah Jones’ forehand strike in the first-half settled matters as they then held off Italian threats and had the post to thank in the second-half to keep their lead.
Scotland men’s hopes of reaching a first World Cup finals were denied by Austria in Cardiff.
For the second match running between these two closely-contested sides, Austria prevailed in a tense shoot-out, 3-2, after the sides were locked 0-0.
After Austria took a 2-0 lead following Alan Forsyth and Andrew McConnell’s misses, Cam Golden and Lee Morton pegged back the deficit. Michael Korper then made sure of the win after Rob Field’s miss.
Earlier, France, bidding to reach the World Cup ahead of being a host nation at Paris 2024, ran through the gears to oust Poland 5-0. Timothee Clement got the ball rolling with a double inside a minute in the first-half.
Ben Walker’s double put Ireland within one win of the 2023 World Cup as they got the best of Russia 2-0 with a composed defensive performance.
Walker swooped in the first five minutes of each time with close-range finishes to left-wing crosses to make the difference.
Around that, Ireland were cool and calm at the back with Jamie Carr recording a clean sheet with some robust stops while the likes of Conor Harte, Kyle Marshall and Lee Cole left precious little through.
The Green Machine will next play Wales on Saturday, the winner being guaranteed a World Cup ticket.
The Welsh, playing under the lights with home support, were indebted to Gareth Furlong’s penalty corner double to see off Italy in a high-tempo game.