Muscat — Along with the wealth of goals that Hockey5s can serve up – take the Netherlands, who scored 45 in their group games against largely developing nations – also comes precision hockey. But on Friday night, it was the umpire’s precision play which perhaps cost Poland the chance of winning through to the first 5s World Cup final.
The Hockey Paper had to scour the rules of 5s after Poland scored what looked like a perfectly acceptable ‘challenge’ goal (penalty corner). In a challenge, the taker has to carry the ball at least four metres before shooting. With the penalty stroke spot 3.6 metres from the line, the Pole was adjudged to have taken her fine lift before the extra 0.4m required and her ‘equaliser’ was ruled out. With no line, it was down to the umpire’s discretion.
However strange and harsh this was, Hockey5s is still in its infancy. Before the tournament, a new rule came in where players now can’t shoot above backboard height between the quarter and half-way. For obvious safety reasons, especially with the less skilled, that was a very sound move. The obvious scenario for the challenge would be to move any required length to the stroke spot.
The moment in question: Polish player has to carry 4m before any 'challenge' shot. But there is no 4m line. Goal was ruled out. pic.twitter.com/tSeZ5xPu2V
— The Hockey Paper (@TheHockeyPaper) January 26, 2024
The Dutch, meanwhile, moved and passed their way – just – into Saturday’s women’s final, courtesy of a 3-1 win. They will meet India, who beat South Africa 6-3. And the hosts have got the final they want. The best in the tournament against a team who will fill the seats.
The Oranje, made up of players averaging in their early 20s and coming out of the U21 set up, came up against their biggest test yet, the quality having been upped somewhat when they beat Ukraine 4-2 in the quarter-finals.
They hadn’t played seven minutes without a goal in their first four games. In their semi-final they were camped in the Polish last third. But, against the run of play, the Poles scored a breakaway through Amelia Katerla.
The joy at levelling up by their Amsterdam HC captain Noor de Baat with under five minutes left suggested the Dutch were in a fight here.
They took the lead after probably the best quality half of the 39 games played so far in the women’s tournament. It came via a challenge (in effect a penalty corner and like a shoot-out but with no time stipulations and players running back from half way once the shooter starts) and a second from De Baat.
She was then helped off the pitch after letting out an agonising scream after falling to the turf and jarring her knee. Her tournment looked over with ACL fears.
Poland should have been level with nine minutes left after a challenge run and lift into the net. But the Pole hadn’t dribbled those required four metres before scoring and it was ruled out. The challenge had come after a push, which would have been a green in 11-a-side. In Hockey5s, it is a touch more lapse.
The Dutch then scored with the next play to open a two-goal lead. In a tight, controlled game this was crucial. And so it proved as the Dutch became the first side to reach a 5s World Cup final, followed later by India, who scored four goals in five minutes in the second-half to beat South Africa. It included a clutch of low forehands struck before half-way to seal their final berth.