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With Catalonia suffering defeat to Russia in the early Group B match, Australia came onto the court knowing qualification was secured but to top the group, the Aussies would have to win by ten goals. But the Basque defence – led from the back by the magnificent Irantzu Iparragirre – didn’t read that script and performed admirably in the face of adversity. There might not be a huge numerical difference between 9-0 and 10-0 but for the Basques they can take pride from the fact they stopped a strong Aussie side from achieving first place outright.
The valiant young Basques held out for more than half of the opening period during the Australian onslaught. Lori Depczynski, Jaz Kent and Sophie Jones all went close, as did Lindsey Jobling from open play but it was a free-kick that provided the far-travelled Aussies with a golden chance to break the deadlock and Andrea Pollicina rattled home from the edge of the box. Iparragirre had been in absolutely inspired form, and she kept it up with a save from Chelsie Winchcombe and then denied Pollicina at the near post. Her splendid saves buoyed the Basques into creating a dangerous attack of their own. The chance came through the second of the Iparragirre sisters, Irati, who whipped the ball across the face of goal, almost sneaking in the far corner but it skimmed wide of the post.
Another moment of class from Pollicina granted Jobling with an easy tap-in for her team’s second. The young playmaker tiptoed her way around the Basque defence inside the box before squaring to Jobling with her left foot as she lurked on the line. The ball arrived and Jobling duly accepted goalscoring duties, guiding it over the line past the unfortunately helpless Iparragirre in goal.
Half Time: Basque Country 0-2 Australia
Australia started the second period on the offensive from the off, pinning down the Basques inside their own half of the court. Jobling raced down the right wing after a loose ball, catching up with it on the byline. She dropped her shoulder and turned inside to outwit the recovering Irati Iparragirre, and crossed it perfectly for Winchcombe to finish.
Depczynski intercepted a clearance at the halfway line and shifted the ball wide to the latest scorer, who'd taken up a position on the left wing. Depczynski continued her run and as she burst into the box her teammate found her and with the cheekiest of flicks she sent the ball past substitute goalkeeper Amaia Oyarbide and into the net. The Basques maintained their stoutness in defence, putting their bodies on the line for every shot – literally. A brilliant save by Oyarbide forced her to come off with a leg injury, and the crowd rightly applauded her excellent – albeit brief – contribution.
But the Aussies didn’t let up and had no time for sentiment. Jess Linquist laid off to Jobling drilled a left-footed shot past GK for the sixth before she put her own name on the scoresheet, darting through the Basque back line and sliding the ball under Iparragirre on the slide.
The Aussies were now having fun in pursuit of their perfect ten. Even Britt Hargreaves got in on the act with a goal and provided an assist for Pollicina at the far post to take the score to 8-0. The girls in green kept five players outfield and it looked like it would pay off when Pollicina scored again for the ninth with six minutes remaining. But with Hargreaves upfield it provided Laida Ormazabal with the chance of a long range shot from her own half, reminiscent of Pele in the 1970 World Cup but it bounced agonisingly wide of the goal (just like the Brazilian maestro’s own attempt). The clock continued to tick down and the Basques formed an impenetrable wall to keep the Aussies out. Despite trying all they could to reach double-digits with captain Kent, Pollicina and Shannon Day in particular causing problems, the determination of the Aussies didn’t match their luck.
So Australia will settle for second place and a semi final spot, and they will prepare to face Sweden. The Basques have a playoff match in the form of a derby to look forward to, as they square off against Spain.
Full Time: Basque Country 0-10 Australia
Basque Country: 1- Irantzu Iparragirre (GK), 2- Idoia Gorrotxategi, 3- Amaia Lopez, 4- Eli Oyarbide, 6- Arantxa Ortiz, 7- Olaia Agilar, 8- Irati Iparragirre, 10- Olatz Lago, 11- Laida Ormazabal, 12- Amaia Oyarbide (GK)
MVP: Irantzu Iparragirre. The young goalkeeper was a heroine for her team today. it did not matter if the shot was high or low, to the right or to the left, she made sure she tried to prevent a goal. She made a number of terrific stops and if it were not for her brilliance, this could have been a very different scoreline.
Australia: 1- Britt Hargreaves (GK), 2- Lindsey Jobling, 3- Lori Depczynski, 4- Jaz Kent (Captain), 5- Chelsie Winchcombe, 6- Sophie Jones, 7- Shannon Day, 8- Andrea Preiato, 9- Caitlin Jarvie, 10- Rhianna Pollicina, 11- Melissa Khoury (GK), 16- Jessica Lindquist
MVP: Andrea Pollicina. The little playmaker was superb once more and was one of thew few players able to consistently exploit the gaps left by the Basque defence and her skill was on show throughout the match.