PHOTO: Canadian midfielder Mark Pearson carries the ball against France at the 2013 World League Round 2 final in Saint Germain, France (By Marine Andrieux)
Canada’s men’s field hockey team wrapped up its three-game exhibition series in France with a 4-1 loss Wednesday at the Wattignies Hockey Club.
The Men’s National Team will now spend some time training in France before heading to London, England for the 2017 International Hockey Federation World League Semi-Final, where World Cup qualification will be awarded to the top five teams.
Once in London, Canada will face Malaysia in a warm-up match before opening the tournament on Friday, June 16 against Pakistan.
See Canada’s full World League Semi-Final schedule, results, and game recaps here.
Canada ends the exhibition series in France with a draw and two losses.
“France is a good team, they’re up and coming,” says Canada’s Interim Head Coach, Paul Bundy. “They’ve got some guys from the Junoir World Cup cycle four years ago when they made it to the finals. They’re maturing and they deserve to be a lot higher ranked.
The 17th ranked French side that is headed to the World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg, South Africa on the heels of a top-two finish at World League Round 2 where they pushed the 9th ranked Irish men to a shootout.
“This series of games…it’s hardened us from a team perspective,’ Bundy says. “We’re bonding pretty well together. We’ve obviously got back our guys from Europe, so those guys are getting back in.”
Monday’s game began well for the Canadian men, when Gordon Johnston picked up his fifth goal of the exhibition series on a penalty corner in the first quarter.
France responded with their own penalty corner goal in the first frame and went on to put in three more on the corner to go on to the 4-1 win.
“It’s a game where we lost a little bit of focus in patches and they scored four corners,” Bundy adds. “Their set pieces are working quite well and on the flip side ours are still getting going.
“I think the other games, we had a lot more focus, and that gave us a lot more consistency, we were able to win the ball higher up the field, and then we were able to create good attacks.”
Bundy says in addition to shoring up the corner, the 11th ranked Canadians will be focused on tightening up defensive play as they prepare for the World League competition in which they face two top ten teams India (6th) and the Netherlands (4th) and 13th ranked Pakistan in the first three games.