Jean-Laurent Kieffer struck late to secure France’s 3-2 win over Japan in the 5-8 classification round. France will now face New Zealand in the 5th place play-off match, while Poland and Japan will compete for a 7th place finish.
The match started with high intensity and both teams enjoying possession. Japan created the first promising scoring opportunity after a couple of minutes but the French defence was able to block the penalty corner shot. However, Gaspard Baumgarten (6’) opened the scoring when France had a break-away.
The Samurais forced a penalty stroke after Hiroki Sakamoto was tackled by the French goalkeeper Corentin Saunier. Team-captain Koji Kayukawa (24’) took responsibility and converted without any problems. Les Bleus bounced back quickly when Victor Charlet (26’) fired home a penalty corner. This was his fourth goal in this tournament. The match went into half-time with the score 2-1 in favour of France.
Japan were the better side at the beginning of the second half but struggled to create promising attacks. Their best chance to equalise came on 49 minutes when Sakamoto defeated the French goalie in a one-on-one but Tishiro Tachibana failed to deflect the ball into the empty goal. The Japanese effort eventually paid off when Manabu Hatakeyama (51’) equalized from a penalty corner. The score was tied at 2-2 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw both teams playing with urgency as they wanted to avoid a penalty shoot-out competition. France has already lost a shoot-out when Ireland beat them 3-0 in the quarter-final. Japan were beaten by Korea 5-1 within regulation time.
With four minutes remaining, Jean-Laurent Kieffer (66’) scored from open play to put France ahead. For the last two minutes of the game, Japan substituted their goalkeeper to attack with 11 field players. The created one more promising chance but Katsuyoshi Nagasawa’s shot was saved by the French keeper.