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Hockey: Jubilant Japan celebrate Asia Cup triumph and World Cup berth

Japan celebrate after beating Korea 2-1 in the final of the eighth Women’s Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Sports Analysis Services.

Japan celebrate after beating Korea 2-1 in the final of the eighth Women’s Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Sports Analysis Services.

September 27, 2013: Japan won the Women’s Asia Cup for a second time after beating East Asian rivals Korea 2-1 in a gripping final in Kuala Lumpur on Friday evening.

 

The result meant Japan regained the trophy they last won in 2007 – when they also beat Korea in the final – and sealed their place at next year’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.

 

India won the bronze by beating China 3-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in regulation time, hosts Malaysia beat Kazakhstan 5-1 to finish fifth, while Chinese Taipei came from behind to beat Hong Kong 3-1 and seal seventh spot in the eight-team tournament.

 

In the final, forward Aki Mitsuhashi – later named player of the match – put Japan ahead in the 27th minute from open play and 20 minutes into the second half midfielder Shihu Otsuka doubled the lead as Japan sought to avenge their 3-0 defeat to Korea in the pool stage.

 

With only three minutes left, Korea pulled one back through a Kim Jong-eun penalty corner, but Japan held on for their second Asia Cup title after winning in Hong Kong in 2007, when they beat Korea 7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation time. Japan were losing finalists in the first competition in 1985, 1989 and 2004.

 

You Seung-jin, Japan’s Korean coach, was delighted with the double whammy. “It’s good to regain the Asia Cup, but more importantly we have now earned our place in the World Cup by being the continental champions,” You said. “This will boost the morale of the team and we look forward to the World Cup in Holland next year.”

 

Japan became the ninth team to qualify for the World Cup, joining hosts Netherlands, Australia, England, Argentina, Germany, Korea, New Zealand and China. The 10th qualifier will be confirmed this weekend upon the conclusion of the Pan American Cup in Mendoza, Argentina.

 

Japan are building for the future, as Mitsuhashi and Otsuka were among only five players from last year’s Olympic squad, along with defender Keiko Manabe, forward Akane Shibata and captain Miyuki Nakagawa, a three-time Olympian.

 

In the earlier third place playoff, India were 2-0 up at half-time following goals by Anuradha Devi Thockhom (15’) and Vandana Katariya (31’). China, the 2009 champions, bounced back through Yan Yan and Wu Mengrong, but it was India, winners in New Delhi in 2004, who triumphed 3-2 in the shoot-out thanks in large to a great display from Savitha, goalkeeper of the tournament.

 

Chinese Taipei’s young star Wu Huang Yu was named the most promising player of the tournament.

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