Spain display Sydney style

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The Independent Online

Spain, the Atlanta Olympic silver medallists, beat Pakistan 3-2 in a thrilling, carefree final of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Osaka yesterday. The Spaniards demonstrated, even without the injured Juan Escarre, who is recovering from a knee operation, that they are likely to be one of the major medal contenders in Sydney.

Spain always looked in control of the game from the 17th minute when the substitute Eduard Tubau, who had come on just a minute previously, burst between two Pakistan defenders to give Ramon Jufresa, the goalkeeper, no chance with a powerful drive. Pakistan squandered two chances to equalise before, in the 34th minute, Xavi Ribas, from their only penalty corner of the half, put Spain further ahead.

Pakistan's Imran Yousuf had earlier seen his penalty stroke saved and then Sohail Abbas had crashed a penalty corner against the crossbar. Eight minutes after the interval Sohail, the tournament's top scorer, pulled a goal back only for Xavi Arnau to quickly restore Spain's two goal advantage. On the final whistle Sohail scored again to take his competition total to 13.

South Korea, as expected, took the bronze medal with a 2-1 victory over Poland, who surprised everyone with their purposeful play. The Koreans, having opened up a two-goal interval lead, appeared to throttle back and allowed Poland into the game to score a well-deserved penalty-corner goal in the 67th minute. Rafal Grotowski finished off after initial shots had been brilliantly saved by the Korean goalkeeper Chun Jong Lim.

FINAL STANDINGS

OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT

11/12th place play-off: Belarus 1 Switzerland 4. 9/10th: New Zealand 0 Belgium 1. 3/4th: S Korea 2 Poland 1. Final: Pakistan 2 Spain 3.

Final positions (first six qualify for Sydney): 1 Spain; 2 Pakistan; 3 S Korea; 4 Poland; 5 Great Britain; 6 Malaysia; 7 Argentina; 8 Japan; 9 Belgium; 10 New Zealand; 11 Switzerland; 12 Belarus.

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