Viet Nam News
JOHANNESBURG — Japan stunned the England "golden girls" 1-0 in Johannesburg on Wednesday with Mami Karino scoring an early goal in a Women’s Hockey World League tournament matchday 3 thriller.
England, ranked second in the world and nine places above Japan, included a number of the stars who helped Great Britain win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
But the favourites were rattled at the University of the Witwatersrand hockey stadium when they conceded an avoidable goal just three minutes into the initial quarter.
Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch and Giselle Ansley got into a muddle and failed to cut off a low cross, leaving Karino to calmly tap the ball into the net.
England responded by making six circle penetrations inside eight minutes of the Pool A match beginning and could have scored three times.
The failure of the English to take their chances triggered frustrations and 32-year-old superstar Alex Danson exchanged heated words with one of the umpires.
Japan, who last beat England 11 years ago, adopted a direct approach, playing long balls to try and ease the pressure as they booked a quarter-finals spot with a match to spare.
England, who opened with a 3-0 win over Poland, were not at their best, particularly during the third quarter, committing many basic errors and conceding turnovers.
Despite constant pressure from the English it took 55 minutes before they forced a short corner after the ball came off a Japanese shinpad.
They got a second short corner almost immediately, this time for a foot offence, but Japan held firm with goalkeeper Megumi Kageyama making a string of superb saves.
Recently recruited Australia-born Japan coach Anthony Farry hailed the "Cherry Blossoms" after the biggest upset so far in the Johannesburg tournament.
"Our defence did really well to keep England out. I am taking no credit for this victory -- fantastic teamwork by a wonderful bunch of girls did the trick.
"We were lucky to score early and now there is a need to keep our feet firmly on the ground. On another day, England could have scored a few goals."
Wins for Ireland, Argentina and India
Nicola Evans and Gillian Pinder scored to give Ireland a 2-0 win over limited Poland in the same section while Germany had a bye.
Ireland have five points, Rio bronze medalists Germany and Japan four, England three and Poland none.
England need one point from matches against already-qualified Germany and Ireland to be certain of reaching the quarter-finals.
Argentina demonstrated why they are ranked third in the world by coming from behind to overcome hosts South Africa 3-1 in a Pool B match that drew a capacity crowd.
Fierce close-range shots from captain Delfina Merino and Florencia Habif during the final quarter gave the South Americans victory and top place.
A third-quarter Pretti Dubey goal earned India a 1-0 victory over Chile -- their first of the tournament after drawing with South Africa and losing heavily to the United States.
Argentina and the United States have six points ahead of a Friday showdown, India four, South Africa one and Chile none.
South Africa and Chile square off the same day to decide who accompanies the three teams above them to the knockout phase. — AFP