Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Japan finish fifth and qualify for Champions Trophy

AFP , MADRID

Japan clinched fifth place at the women's field hockey World Cup on Saturday with a 1-0 win over the US which guaranteed them a spot in January's Champions Trophy in Argentina.

Korea secured ninth place with a surprise 2-1 defeat of China and India avoided the wooden spoon by beating South Africa 1-0 in the 11-12 play-off.

After a bright start by the US, Japan gradually took control of midfield and just after the break grabbed the only goal of the game when Kaori Chiba chipped the ball over Amy Tran to score.

"It was a dream for us to play in the World Cup," Japan coach Yoo Seung Jin said. "To take fifth position and qualify for Argentina is a dream come true. This is a great result for Japanese hockey."

The result meant that the US miss out on the Champions Trophy in Buenos Aires.

USA coach Lee Bodimeade said: "We are unhappy that we didn't qualify for Argentina. But, if we were offered this result [sixth place] prior to the tournament, we would have been delighted."

Japan are now likely to move up to sixth in the new world rankings.

Korea had shown glimpses of form in earlier matches and they gave their higher ranked opponents a lesson in attacking hockey.

Korea had scored twice before China even settled down. Choi Eun Young scored from a corner and then a great goal from Park Mi Hyun had China reeling.

With only seconds to play, China finally scored when Ren Ye deflected a Ma Yi Bo set play corner pass around the defense and into the net.

But that was not enough to save China from finishing an embarrassing 10th.

In a lackluster battle to avoid the wooden spoon, India scored the only goal, and then held on against some sporadic attacks from South Africa.

India's top goal scorer Surinder Kaur did not appear due to a knee injury, and honors were even until the 28th minute when India's captain Sunita Kullu scored a brilliant field goal, chipping the ball home after finding herself one-on-one with goalkeeper Caroline Jack.

South Africa rarely looked likely to score although they managed three late corners in a final flurry, only for their set plays to crumble under pressure.

India coach MK Kaushik was relieved to have avoided last place.

"It was not in our plan to defend, we wanted to win and Kullu had a good match with a wonderful goal," Kaushik said. "We missed a lot of open goals and the team made good passes. It was not a great match but we were the better team and we are happy to win."

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