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England defeat Argentina to book final place
TchatchouangENGLAND 4 (2)
Nicola White 32 (FG)
Hannah Macleod 39 (FG)
Susie Townsend 48 (FG)
ARGENTINA 2 (1)
Carla Rebecchi 26 (FG)
The sun shone at Chiswick for the most anticipated match of the week at the Investec Hockey World League as England took on Argentina in the second semi final of the day. The home side was in sensational form as they put four goals past the Olympic silver medallists, who could only offer two back in reply. Hannah Macleod, Susie Townsend and Nicola White were all on target to book England into the final against Australia tomorrow evening. The victory was made even sweeter as the home side's top two finish guarantees them a place in the 2014 World Cup next summer.
England Head Coach, Jason Lee reflected on the victory after the game, "I am overjoyed with the result of course, it was actually an easier game for us to approach compared to some others as the pressure was off. World Cup qualification was practically assured so we could play with more risk and more attacking play; we showed a lot of fighting spirit. Scoring four goals against a team of Argentina's quality is a good day, and doing it on a sunny day, in front of a home crowd; it doesn't get much better than that."
Reading's Susie Gilbert made her 50th England appearance.
Argentina started the match strongly, evading England defenders and maintaining possession of the ball in the opening 10 minutes of play. However, they were not able to capitalise and it was England who dealt the first blow to take a 1-0 lead. Beeston's Hollie Webb found Bowdon Hightown's Sally Walton who fired a pass into the circle across goal, which following great pressure from Hannah Macleod saw Argentina deflect the ball into their own net.
Argentina immediately pushed forward, but a succession of saves from goalkeeper Maddie Hinch saw the score remain in England's favour. However, the world number side continued to press, and Carla Rebecchi showed why she is one of the best players in the world with a solo effort in the 26th minute to bring the score level at 1-1.
With an unwavering attitude and focused play, England scored their second goal in the 32nd minute. A pass from Surbiton's Georgie Twigg was slotted home by Leicester's Nicola White who got down low to accurately deflect the ball past Maria Aladro in goal. England played the half out to take a 2-1 advantage in to the break.
The second half of the match saw Argentina come back fighting, fully utilising their captain and seven times FIH Player of the Year, Luciana Aymar, however once again England were resilient in defence. The whole team worked tirelessly to break Argentina's play down and the likes of Sophie Bray and Hannah Macleod continued to look dangerous on the attack. It was Macleod who was in the right place on the 39th minute as Townsend, out in midfield, hit a fantastic pass from distance into the circle which her teammate expertly deflected in to take the score to 3-1.
The two goal cushion didn't last long as Argentina turned play over straight away and just two minutes later, after an unfortunate deflection from an England stick, the score was pulled back to 3-2.
Despite the persistent threat from Argentina, England held their nerve and in the 47th minute when Rodriguez Perez received a green card, the home side capitalised on the one man advantage to take the score to 4-2. The home crowd erupted as another accurate pass from Walton seared into the circle. This time it was Townsend who made contact, deflecting the ball from close range past Aladro, for her first senior international goal.
In the final few minutes, the pressure was on for England's defence as Argentina stepped up their game, but Hinch was resolute in goal with a series of impressive dives and saves. England held on to see the game out and secure a historic 4-2 win over Argentina.
The result means that England have not only booked their place in the final tomorrow evening against Australia, but they have also secured 2014 World Cup qualification.
Speaking after the game, a satisfied Kate Walsh said, "We looked hard at ourselves after the last game, Jason asked for a lot more 'oomph' and I think we did provide that today. Argentina are a fantastic side and it's always a great game; always open with lots of attacking play. I'm just really pleased that we came out of it on the right side today and we're really looking forward to playing Australia. We had a couple of tough practice games against them recently and we'd like to turn those results around in front of a home crowd tomorrow."
England play Australia in the Final tomorrow at 18:00. Tickets are available on the gate.
Live coverage of the third place play-off and Final will be shown on Sky Sports 4 from 13:15-20:00. Click here to find out more.