Greta Hayes celebrates a goal by launching into the air with her hand up

Hockeyroos retains perfect World Cup start, favorites advance to quarter-finals

The Hockeyroos have made their way to the top of Group D at the Hockey Women’s World Cup after a 90-second blitz in which they scored twice to beat Belgium 2-0.

In a match played at Spain’s Estadi Olimpic de Terrassa, Greta Hayes (39th minute) scored her first international goal midway through the third quarter, before Rebecca Greiner (40th minute) capitalized to double the advantage in a decisive period.

The Hockeyroos are now the favorites to advance to the quarter-finals, an impressive feat for a team that has only played four internationals since the start of the year and is leading the tournament.

Australia is in Pool D alongside Belgium, Japan and South Africa, with Japan and South Africa still to win one game and Belgium with one.

The best team from each group will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals.

Against Belgium – which had twice as many shots on target – Australia did an excellent job on defense, especially in the first half of the pressure cooker.

The confidence of the Belgians was high after a 4-1 win over South Africa and the game started at a breakneck pace, with the European opponents of the Hockeyroos looking calmer.

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But led by the reliable Karri Somerville and Penny Squibb, the Hockeyroos defense held up, with goalkeeper Aleisha Power having to save from a penalty corner just before half time and the score was 0-0.

Head Coach Katrina Powell begged her team to be stronger in the game in the second half and the Hockeyroos heeded the call.

Jocelyn Bartram replaced Power in the second half and had to make a sharp save to keep Belgium at bay.

But a green card for Belgium’s Pauline Leclef in the 38th minute would be crucial as the Hockeyroos took full advantage of the extra player.

Sensing the moment, Jane Claxton sent a searching ball into the attacking circle.

Hayes initially jumped the ball to make it run, causing chaos for the Belgian defense before reacting the fastest to score her first international goal.

However, the Hockeyroos weren’t done with Kaitlin Nobbs firing another circle entrance in the middle.

Grace Stewart then put the ball into the post, with Greiner perfectly positioned to pull in the rebound with a reverse shot.

Leading 2-0, the Hockeyroos once again had to defend bravely, with just a stick from Squibb on the goal line stopping Belgium from clawing back a goal from a penalty corner.

Stephanie Kershaw was named Player of the Match for her efforts both defensively and in possession.

After the game, Hayes said the Hockeryoos knew the match-up with Belgium was a “must-win”.

“We are very excited to take the win [because] we knew there was a lot of pressure coming into the game,” she said.

“In the first half, Belgium really put us under a lot of pressure, but at halftime we came in and we knew we just had to keep running fast, follow our process, and we came out in the second half and did that.”

The Hockeyroos will play another group match, against South Africa, at the same location, on Thursday, July 7 at 5:30 AM AEST (9:30 PM local time).

Every match of the 2022 Women’s World Cup will be shown live on Foxtel and Kayo.

ABC Sports

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