Semi-finals in sight in Surgut

FINA Women’s World Cup 2018 is entering its exciting phase where every team looks poised to be a possible winner. Quarter-finals showed “clockwork” and were of some predictable nature, but for the one “Commonwealth game” seeing a hilly road. Rich in a lot of ups and downs, Australia vs. Canada got a surprising ending, where “stingers” got 3 goals up. All other favorites secured some clear double-digit margins and had no major problems securing their wins.

World #2 and European #3 Spain defeated New Zealand by a margin, 17-3 and booked their semi-final presence against USA. Overall champions were again victorious, scoring three times as more as China, 15-5, admitting they had a really good match this night. Host Russia energized the crowd, setting a new scoring record of the tournament in Surgut. Winning 26 to love over South Africa, they will tomorrow see Australia in another big semi-final, leaving ex-opponents China up to testing Maple Leaves in a consolation one.

ESP vs. NZL 17-3 (3-1, 5-1, 4-0, 5-1)

Spain routed New Zealand en route to the semi-finals. It was quite predictable outcome of today’s contest. World’s #2 and European #3 showed class, good shape and quite action, highlighted by the new rules, which they already learnt how to use for the benefit of their team. Anna Espar was again a jewel, shining bright with her best scoring skills. She deservedly won “the best player” title as her 5 goals were one more time the best figure of the day.

The quarter-finals match started very balanced with the two teams tied at 1-1 after 5 minutes, and then Red Fury speeded up the mode to shake of board where opponents stood. Scoring impressively one-on-one duels, extra-man chances, cross shots, Miguel Ange Oca’s side constructed a solid advantage to see even the post and rebounce play for their team on site, 8-2 at the large break. 4 to love script of the third quarter almost left no chances for opponents to revive. And they did not go breaking, scoring just once, some 6 minutes left till the final buzzer, converting powerplay at 13-3. 4 more “doughouts” followed – twice by Clara Espar Llaquet and Helena Lloret Gomez in action, and Paula Crespi in extra, which set in the final result of the game at 17-3, choosing next opponents for both sides.

AUS vs. СAN 9-6 (3-1, 1-1, 2-2, 3-2)

Hunna Buckling’s devastating kills were one of the means to push Canada out of the semi-finals. North Americans could not find a remedy against her, opening the scoring day, and 3 more guns of the Australian roster. Recovering from a 2 down, they revived twice and were a finish flop. We shall not blame them, as they tried hard, giving all their energy, which was simply scarce after a sensitive defeat the day before.

The “Commonwealth game” was a story of the two familiars. They were not friends, but knew each other well. Very similar and different at the same time, quite young and ambitious, with their average team’s age under 25 year old. Their style was similar, but quarters-finals story differed registering uneasy ends and aftertastes. Once “Aussie stingers” shared points with Spain en route to the play-off, Maple Leaves came away weak by a rout to neighbors USA. It was may be too difficult to forget, chuckle and eat it. Distraction was not evident, but felt sure. It was a difficult game though for both sides, unpredictable and amazing to watch.

Australia opened the score first and was pretty confident raising. Just 4 minutes took them cater a 3-0 lead, a little later reduced to 3-1. There was a lot of fighting in the next two quarters. Both teams showed excellent defensive work with their goalkeepers Gabriella Palm and Clara Ana Maria Vulpisi suffering loads and pressure. They sparkled with a number of saves, some on the extra-man chances.

As game went on, Canada needed to score badly. Theoharis Pavlidis side, 2 goals down, felt obligation to go on strom. Offensive efforts disclosed holes on their shelters. They restarted to conceded one and a quarter to the fourth period, as finishing at the other end turned a little erratic, 6-4.

Australians did not feel pressure. Rowie Webster made a steal to supply Hannah Buckling in action goal. A couple of cross court attacks followed by Canadian rocket Hayley Ann McKellvey and center Krystine Alogbo, and there was just a goal between them again. Australians breathed in at time, charged on energy right to come out and score 2 fast breaks. That came as a shock for the Maple Leaves as well, 9-6, they are out of the medal’s chase.

CHN vs.USA 5-15 (0-4, 4-4, 0-3, 1-4)

World No. 1 USA did the expected. They blew away China, which was unlucky enough to meet them at the quarterfinals, 15-5. USA dictated the tempo, dominated the ball and were booking the game’s flow. Their power scorers Rachel Fattal and Paige Hauschild contributed 4 and 3 goals respectively, while for the team China Xiao Chen was best with 3 out of 5 hits.

It goes without saying, that raising Asian squad was not a match for the reigning overall champions. Dali Dong coached side did the best they could or rather what their opponents let them on court, which was a one-sided game although. Looking competitive for as long as one – namely, the second, – quarter, they at the same time were best seen contesting US force at the World Cup-2018.

USA jumped out for a quick lead, 0-4. A timid reaction of the China came within second frame, 4-8, however Stefens Margaret, Rachel Fattal – at 5m standard, and Paige Hauschild left no illusions as to the masters of the game. They shone bright with their style and skills. Paige Hauschild did it again in the last period, supported readily by Kiley Neushul, Kaleigh Gilchrist and Alys Williams. The credit goal by China came early in the frame as Zhanh Jing fought hard for the ball and dish it to Chen Xiao, which however could not change anything in the game’s flow, 5-15.

RUS vs. RSA 26-0 (9-0, 4-0, 8-0, 5-0)

In front of 1.500 enthusiastic fans at the “Olymp” Swimming center in Surgut, Russia demolished lethargic South Africa to progress.

The difference of physical power and skills got visible as soon as the game started. The South Africans could barely get close to the Russian goals, and most of their shots were forced attempts earned heavily. They never bought their first goal that evening, as Aleksandr Gaidukov coached side dig out gap unceasingly well. They got it launched as 9-0, then improved to 13-0 in the second period, and even broke third “ten” at 3 seconds left in the third, 21-0. Russia was not faultless though, providing Jason Sileno’s side with some worthy man-up chances and those of the contra-attacking nature hot ready to set in. There were 6 “extra” for them, and none has been but converted. Leaders did not spare chances in vain and did their job well, killing 2/2.

The match came to the end at 26-0. The only intrigue in the last period was if hosts would reach 30. Their game though deserved praise and compliments, as two players at once were a five, Maria Bersneva and Anastasiia Simanovich. Olga Gorbunova, the Best player of the Game 2, contributed 4 “points”. All three were not just drilled actively scoring, but looked for a chance to serve, to back up the goalie and launch an attack.