Arts & Commerce Day marked another great day of competition at the XI FIP World Polo Championship.
Argentina continued their dominating run in the FIP Word Championship at Sydney Polo Club on Tuesday with a convincing second victory in Group A, defeating Spain 12-3 ½ in a stop-start game on the Supremo field.
In a five chukka match that lasted two hours, owing to three falls – on two occasions players went “over the handlebars” on unfamiliar horses going for neck shots – and tack stoppages, Argentina produced another resounding display with their 15 goal team, conceding ½ goal on handicap.
Argentine coach said the game lacked rhythm but their strategy continues to be to play fast, open polo, which seems possible with the horsepower provided and what he described as the “amazing” condition of the fields.
The winner of each group progresses to Sunday’s final, and the win – after their opening triumph over USA in the tournament opener – sees the two-time champions continue their command of Group A with only hosts Australia in their way.
Spain, led by Pelayo Berazadi Rozpide, started the game in promising fashion and looked to be holding the Argentine ball players in the opening exchanges. A beautiful shot from distance by Rozpide reminded Argentines that Spain were only narrowly beaten by Australia in their first game.
The first chukka ended 2-2 before the South Americans began to dominate, scoring ten unanswered goals in the final four chukkas.
The throw-in count at the final whistle was 14-4 to Argentina, but many of those were not clean wins, perhaps indicating the Argentina player’s ability to win the tight plays. Only captain Berazadi Rozpide possessed the awareness and stick-work to keep the ball away from the swarming Argentines. He later said “they are four great players that play at a very high speed and we could not compete for more than one chukka.”
Spanish coach, Argentine Diego Araya said Spain’s objective before the tournament was to rank third or fourth place. He then went on to say “Of course it’s difficult to match Argentina when they have so many players to choose from. Most of these players are used to playing a much higher level of polo,” he added.
Most would not argue with that assessment. Argentina will take some stopping – but never write off a host nation.
Chile won their second game in Group B with an 11-2 win of India on Wednesday after a strong first two chukkas from India that shook the champions.
After a 16-1 loss to England in their opening game, India needed to restore some pride and they should have been ahead after two chukkas but missed chances to go ahead. The Indians came out with a different intensity – as coach Uday Kalaan later said “we fight for ourselves. We fight for our country.”
The Indians immediately put the Chileans on the back foot. India had changed positions of all four players come the first throw-in. But it was the intent and the man marking that appeared to cause the Chilean’s problems.
Had India been more accurate – missing four opportunities to score – they may well have built up a cushion for what was about to come from Chile. At half time Chile led by 3 to 1 and, with India still in the game, Chile coach Martin Zeggers asked his players to simplify their game plan.
Chile coach Martin Zeggers said “India played a terrific first two chukkas and put a lot of pressure on our guys.
He added that after the break his Chilean players “made it more simple, started hitting back shots and turning.”
As the Chileans came back out firing, India were unable to maintain the pace as the more experienced Chileans began to win the throw ins and find runners up field.
“It’s only the second game with this team as was a very raining winter (in Chile).” Zeggers added. “We are still in a process of knowing each other under harsh circumstances, but what I take from today is that the simpler we play the better we play.”
The win sets up an enticing Super Saturday encounter against England as the teams vie to top the group and progress to the final.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, and worryingly for England, the Chilean captain Jose Zeggers said “England are a tough team but we feel good with the team (we have). We have not played much together. We had a really bad winter. We are starting with a team that we never thought we were going to start with.”
England played a tournament in Australia before the tournament. Could this be the edge that they need come Super Saturday? Or will the champions just keep getting better and better?