Ranchi, Jan 16: Japan scored two first-half goals and then absorbed the pressure exerted by Chile in the second half before emerging winners in their last Pool A match which secured them a place in the semifinals of the women's FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers here on Tuesday.
Japan thus finished unbeaten in the Pool along with Germany with two wins and a draw, both teams tied on seven points. Germany took the top spot in Pool A thanks to a big goal difference of +13 after they had thrashed the Czech Republic 10-0 in the first match of the day at the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro-Turf Hockey Stadium here. Chile ended third with three points from one win.
It was a straight knock-out clash between Japan and Chile after the South Americans had defeated the Czech Republic 6-0 on Sunday and Japan had held Germany 1-1.
On Tuesday, Japan dominated possession in the first half and scored twice, absorbed pressure when the Chileans went in search of a goal in the second session and managed to thwart them and won the match 2-0, ending the Pool A proceedings with an unbeaten record with two wins and one draw, the same as Germany.
Japan thus finished second behind World No.5 Germany on goal difference after the two teams ended with seven points. Germany has a huge goal difference of +13 while Japan has 4.
Germany and Japan thus clinched their places in the semifinals of the Hockey Olympic Qualifiers and maintained their chances of punching their tickets to the Paris Olympics by finishing among the top three in Ranchi.
Japan made their intentions clear from the start went on the attack and scored within a few seconds after the push-back.
Kana Urata converted a penalty corner off a fine attack before the Chile team had even settled down. They had a chance of doubling the lead in the 8th minute when they earned their second penalty corner. But they could not capitalise on that opportunity.
"That first goal gave us a lot of confidence and set the tone for us in the match," said Japan head coach Jude Menezes. The two teams had played out a draw in the Nations Cup when they met in 2022 and Menezes wanted his team to take early control of the proceedings.
They eventually got the goal they were threatening to score for some time, in the 23rd minute when Miyu Hasegawa capitalised on a fine attack to score a field goal following their third penalty corner.
Chile fought back in the second half and launched some swift attacks. They penetrated the circle on a few occasions but the Japanese defended strongly, especially their two goalkeepers, who took turns to play each half.
The Chileans were also unlucky on a couple of occasions as once the pass just went across the goalmouth with no forward there to tap it past the goalkeeper.
The South Americans also bagged two penalty corners in the third quarter but could not convert any.
Japan too won two penalty corners in this quarter, the second off a swift counterattack but the attempt was blocked by the Chilean goalkeeper. They had a scare when defender substitute defender Rika Ogawa had to be pulled out after the ball hit her on the left temple off an attempt by a Chilean forward.
Japan kept up the pressure in the fourth quarter, launched some nice attacks and also bagged two penalty corners but wasted the opportunity. (IANS)