England finish 11th after shoot-out victory

Maddie Hinch in action during the shoot-out for 11th-12th place at the Rabobank World Cup - credit Ady Kerry story

On women’s Semi Final day at the Kyocera Stadium the battle for an 11th place finish at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup was not the match England Head Coach Jason Lee and his team had hoped to be playing in. However, after finishing in sixth place in their pool that was the reality and England lined up eager to ensure they took the win from 12th ranked side Belgium.

BELGIUM 1 (0)
Stephanie De Groof 70+ (PC)

ENGLAND 1 (1)
Sophie Bray 16 (FG)

While Sophie Bray put England ahead in the first half, a goal after full-time from Belgium levelled the scores and forced the game into a shoot-out. England put two away thanks to Sally Walton and Susie Gilbert and in defence Maddie Hinch showed her prowess in goal, saving all but one of Belgium’s shots and giving her side the victory.

On the result today and looking ahead, England Captain, Kate Richardson-Walsh said: "It's good to finish with a win but we never wanted to be in this position. We've got some important lessons to learn and we'll go back and learn them. We have the Investec London Cup and Commonwealth Games coming up so it's a busy summer. We'll pick ourselves up and set our standards high for those tournaments."

England started brightly and earned themselves a penalty corner inside the first five minutes; the resulting shot from Hollie Webb went straight through Belgium’s defence into the goal, but the ball just missed the top of the back board resulting in a free hit to Belgium.

After a period of sustained pressure from Belgium, England broke free with a great counter-attacking run from Susie Gilbert whose strong pass across goal was deflected in by Sophie Bray at close range to take the score to 1-0.

England’s defence was tested by Belgium on several occasions and Hinch had to be at her best to keep them at bay. Several shots flew in from Belgium’s Emilie Sinia over the course of the rest of the half, but Hinch was always quick to send them away and the first half ran out with the scores still at 1-0 to England.

Both teams pushed forward in the second half and Belgium had a couple of early chances as they hunted to bring the scores level. England lost Ashleigh Ball with half an hour to go as she went down outside the Belgian circle with a knee injury and had to be stretched off the pitch.

Despite a number of penalty corners and good attacking play England were unable to add another goal to their tally for the rest of the second half. A yellow card for Susannah Townsend followed just moments later by one for captain Kate Richardson-Walsh made the game nervy with less than ten minutes left on the clock. In the last few seconds it looked like England had done enough to secure the win, but a penalty corner for Belgium proved otherwise. In a moment very reminiscent of England’s defeat to Argentina, Stephanie de Groof put the ball away after full-time and took the game into a shoot-out.

Belgium went first and Hinch began facing off against Alix Gerniers. As soon as the ball was in her circle she was out for the tackle, cleanly getting the ball off Gerniers and giving England a good start. This was followed by Sally Walton putting her attempt away and getting England into the lead, but Belgium’s Aline Fobe was quick to level the scores at 1-1 as she got the ball around Hinch into the far corner.

That proved to be the last of Belgium’s goals - Nicola White stepped up next and her shot went wide, while Hinch pulled off a fantastic diving save to deny Belgium’s Stephanie Vanden Borre’s chance to pull ahead. Susie Gilbert’s goal proved decisive as Belgium were both tackled and missed in their next two goal attempts, and England won the shoot-out 2-1 to finish their World Cup in 11th place.

Click here to find out squad and caps information and to see the other results at the tournament.

England Head Coach, Jason Lee said on the story of the tournament: “I certainly think we played to a good standard in the first two games but lady luck was against us. At that point the confidence had gone. The girls got a grip of the tournament as we progressed. We changed a few things around and we’ve played to a good standard in the last few games against the world number two [Argentina] and Germany [European champions]. Belgium, with the exception of the Dutch game, have been close in all their matches, I think they would reflect, like us that they‘re better than their position suggests.”

The women’s World Cup Semi Finals take place later on today with the USA against Australia at 1500 BST and then host nation the Netherlands facing Argentina [the top two sides in the world] in the final game of the day at 1845 BST. Both games will be live on Sky Sports 1.

England men play their World Cup Semi Final clash against the Netherlands at 1415 BST; build up from 1400, live on Sky Sports 1.

All matches at the World Cup are being shown live on Sky Sports with expert analysis from a host of international stars including Kwan Browne, Helen Richardson-Walsh and Chloe Rogers.

Watch England on home turf at the Investec London Cup on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This is the first tournament to be at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, hockey’s legacy stadium, and will be held across five days from 9th – 13th July. Tickets are available from www.englandhockey.co.uk/tickets