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WALES REACH SEMI-FINALS OF EUROHOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS II

In Wales’ last game of the pool stages, they faced a Czech Republic team that weren’t that far behind them. A win for the Czech would leapfrog them above Wales and secure them a place in the semi-finals, while Wales only needed a draw to keep them safe in that second place spot in Pool B.

The first quarter saw end-to-end action, with both teams having chances to opening the scoring, with the closest opportunity coming from Wales who saw a chance rebound off the post in the dying seconds of the first fifteen. The scoring was eventually opened in the early stages of the second quarter by Czech Republic’s Jiří Kulička, and the Czech Republic team seemed to strengthen. Wales’ defensive skills were put to the test, and their spirit was not dampened by the goal as they answered back by securing a penalty flick. Rhys Bradshaw stepped up to the mark, and put it past Vojtěch Pažitka in the Czech goal. However five minutes later, Jiří Kulička put away his second of the game to make it 2-1 to Czech Republic.

The third quarter was an intense affair, with both teams looking to increasing the score line. However, despite the number of short corners seen in the allotted fifteen minutes, neither team were able to convert. The Welsh defence stood defiantly strong against their Czech counterparts, fiercely fighting back and denying them any chance of goal.

The beginning of the fourth was much the same, until a lovely link up between Wales’ Oliver Wheeler and Jonathan Fleck led to Fleck lifting the ball over Vojtěch Pažitka which bounced into the open goal to make it 2-2. The tempo increased during the final eight minutes of the game, with Wales pushing for that third and final goal to secure a win and a definite spot in that semi-final game on Friday. It finally fell for Wales, as they were awarded another penalty flick of the game, taken by Bradshaw, and for the first time in the game Wales took the lead. The Czech Republic fought hard to find their equalising goal and made the decision to substitute their goalkeeper for a kicking back. Wales held strong despite the extra man, going to a zonal marking outside the defensive third, and confidently saw out the last few minutes.

Talking after the game, Head Coach Lee Ible said:

We left it late but we showed great patience to wait for our moments and when they came we executed our counter attacks perfectly and then showed great resilience and character to see the game out. The boys have performed superbly well so far this tournament and I’m confident we have more in the tank for the game against Russia on Friday

Wales’ next game will be against Russia in the semi-finals on Friday 27th July. A winning result will see them progress into the Finals and secure promotion into Championship I.

Article by Stevie Marie Jones Picture: Irfon Bennett

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