Bhubaneswar, DEC 11,
FRANCE’S fairytale run continued after they scraped past China in a frantic crossover encounter, while England proved ‘two good’ for New Zealand, who would also be blaming George Pinner for a rock-solid performance in the opposing goal.
World No. 7 England looked the livelier team, and the likelier one to score. The English forwards were nippy and their attacks coming at regular intervals. But they could never run over the gritty New Zealanders. The first quarter was a slow affair as the knockout nerves made the teams play safely. New Zealand smartly kept more possession (55 percent). The second quarter, though, belonged to England, who dominated possession (57 percent) and had more attacks. Five minutes from the halftime break, Will Calnan gave them the lead.
New Zealand, till then, were not looking too capable in attack. But they found their ways. They had created more chances than England in the second half, but Pinner kept everything out, including some stunning reflex saves. To make matters worse, Luke Taylor struck in the penultimate minute of the third quarter to make it 2-0. England never looked that fragile to relinquish a two-goal lead and they held on. In the end, it was an even match in terms of stats, except for the goals column.
In the quarterfinals, England will face world No. 2 Argentina on Wednesday. The reigning Olympics champions will take the field against England, not having played a match for five days. No guesses who has the advantage when it comes to match practice. Strangely, Argentina played a practice match, during a World Cup, with Australia on Monday. The defending champions also need some match practice. By the time they meet France in the quarters on Wednesday, they would have gone four days without a match.
Unlike the first crossover match, the France-China encounter was a lopsided one in terms of stats. France had 57 per cent possession, 33 circle entries (11 for China) and 13 shots (3). Yet, what sent them through to the next stage was Timothee Clement’s strike in the 36th miniute.