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US women win berth in Olympics hockey
April 28, 2008 12:40 IST
Tournament favourites the United States defeated Belgium 3-1 in the final of the WorldHockey Olympic qualifier in Kazan, Russia [Images], on Sunday, to take the second-but-last available place in the women's tournament at the Beijing [Images] Olympics [Images].
It will be the first time since Seoul 1988 that the US women will participate in an Olympic hockey tournament when not the host nation.
However, there was some consolation for India as their 14-year-old player Rani Devi was adjudged 'Most Promising Young Player of the Tournament'.
In a fiercely contested match, the US started off tentatively, but increased pressure slowly but steadily, and first moved onto the scoreboard in the 18th minute, when Kayla Bashore deflected a Kelly Doton penalty-corner hit into the net.
Belgium stepped up to the challenge and sank a penalty-corner a little later through Anne-Sophie van Regemortel.
The US remained unimpressed, and quickly restored the lead through Tiffany Snow, who tapped a great Kate Barber pass across the face of the goal over the line for her sixth goal of the tournament, a goal that would also earn her the title as 'Top scorer of the Tournament'.
After the break, the game was hotly disputed, an exciting clash between equal rivals, but as time wore on, the US gained ground on Belgium, in part due to their superior physical fitness, and with 12 minutes to go, a great goal from captain Kate Barber settled the match.
Barber made her way into the circle from the right, launching a shot from a narrow angle that beat soon-to-be 'Goalkeeper of the Tournament' Elizabeth Achten.
The clock kept ticking down, and Belgium attacked with increasing desperation, but there was no way past the Americans. After 70 minutes, the siren sounded and the US had pocketed their ticket to Beijing, a fair ending to this tournament, as the arguably best side in the event, who have competed consistently at the highest level in Kazan, picked up the grand prize.
The US thus joins Australia and New Zealand [Images], Germany [Images], the Netherlands, Great Britain and Spain, Argentina, South Africa, China and Japan [Images] in the Beijing Olympic hockey tournament. The one remaining vacancy to complete the 12-team roster will be filled with the winner of the last WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier, in Victoria, Canada [Images], that started on Saturday and will concluded on Sunday May 4.
Individual awards were handed to Elizabeth Achten of Belgium as 'Best Goalkeeper', Americans Tiffany Snow as 'Topscorer' and Rachel Dawson as 'Best Player of the Tournament', and Rani Devi from India as 'Most Promising Young Player of the Tournament'.