Japan assured themselves of a berth in the Hockey World League semifinals when they prevailed over hosts Russia 3-1 to notch up their fourth straight win in the final men’s round 2 event in Elektrostal.
Japan – the top-ranked side in the tournament – drew first blood in the 10th minute through Heita Yoshihara but Russia restored parity through their prolific goal-scorer Dmitry Azarov a few minutes later.
Both teams were tied 1-1 at half-time.
The 16th ranked Japan went ahead in the second half when penalty corner expert Manabu Hatakeyama unleashed a low flick, beating the Russian goalkeeper all ends up.
The Asian side pulled off the insurance goal when Shinji Kawauchi made the most of a quick counter-attack, catching the Russian defence napping.
The 20th ranked Russian pressed hard to stay in the contest, but Japan held on to win the match 3-1.
In another match, Ukraine pipped Austria 4-3 in a shootout after both teams were locked 2-2 in regulation time. Both were tied 1-1 at half-time.
Egypt got the better of Czeck Republic 5-to consign the European side to their fourth defeat on the trot. The African side led 2-1 at half-time.
With Japan through to the Hockey World League semifinals, hosts Russia stand a bright chance of joining them. The home side play the weakest side in the tournament – Czeck Republic – in their last league match.
It may be pertinent to mention that the winner of the fourth and final men’s FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament will join Olympic champions Germany, Asian giants South Korea and Argentina in Pool A of the second semifinal to be held at Johor Bahru.
The Pool B of the Johor Bahru event would comprise England, South Africa, Pakistan and hosts Malaysia.
The team finishing second in the fourth and final men’s FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament in Elektrostal would join Olympic bronze medalists Australia, Belgium and Spain in Pool A in the first semifinal to be held at Rotterdam.
The Pool B of the Rotterdam event features hosts and Olympic silver medalists the Netherlands, India, New Zealand and Ireland.
Earlier, Belgium and hosts France qualified for the semifinal stage from the third FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in Saint–Germain near Paris,
10th ranked Argentina and 12th ranked South Africa qualified from the second FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
9th ranked India and 15th ranked Ireland made it to the Hockey World League (HWL) semifinals from the first FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in New Delhi.