28 January 2015, It’s back – the hottest event in the Asian polo calendar, or should that be the coldest: Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup 2015 at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, China’s premier polo facility, the club is the sporting jewel at the heart of the stunning Fortune Heights real estate development in Tianjin, one of China’s most dynamic cities. Coming up over the next ten days of competition: 12 teams, 14-16 goals, 26 matches, 48 players, thousands of spectators, but only one champion, to be decided in the Grand Final on Sunday, 8th of February.
The twelve teams doing battle for the trophy in 2015 (in alphabetical order) are Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, France, Hong Kong China, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Spain and the USA. Drawn into two zones, each team will play three games in the opening stages, with the top four teams from both zones progressing to the knockout stages, starting on Wednesday, 4th of February.
Organised by the Federation of International Polo (FIP) and the China Equestrian Association, the Tianjin Goldin Snow Polo World Cup has emerged as the largest contest of its kind in the world. Now in its fourth year, the tournament began in 2011, with Argentina winning the inaugural title. Hong Kong China galloped to victory in 2012 and 2013 but were denied a third trophy on the trot by England, the current holders, who prized it from their grasp in a royal 6 – 5 victory in the Grand Final in 2014.
The opening contest of the tournament saw holders England take on Peru, a nation making their first appearance at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club. Distinguished guest Mr. Li Nianxi from the China Equestrian Association threw in the ball to get the match underway, and it was underdogs Peru, playing in red, who scored the opening goal of Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup, courtesy of Gonzalo Siles.
Youngster Matt Perry settled England’s nerves with an equaliser, but Peru reclaimed the lead in the second chukka, Jose Mulanovich scoring with a clinical backhand strike. England captain Jack Richardson levelled the scores with a smart individual goal before teammate Perry snuck another over the line to put the holders ahead. Peru’s Guillermo Li scored the only goal of the third and final chukkas, sending the game to penalties. Accuracy was in
short supply in the ensuing shoot-out, but England’s Max Routledge kept his nerve to score the decisive goal in sudden death, sealing a narrow victory for England.
While the opening match was closely fought, the second game, between Canada and Brazil, was anything but. Canada were taken apart by a rampant Brazil side, the trio of Gustavo Garcia, Guilherme Lins and Aluisio Vilela Rosa scoring nine times with just a single goal in reply, off the stick of Brandon Phillips. Brazil certainly look the team to watch after such an impressive display; Canada, on the other hand, must lick their wounds and hope that Peru is going to prove more willing opponents in their second group match on Friday.
Argentina and New Zealand faced off in the final match of the day, which also proved the most exciting. First blood went to the South Americans in the opening chukka, who held on to the lead right up until the final seconds when New Zealand’s Tom Hunt stroked the ball between the posts to equalise. New Zealand, quarter final finishers in 2014, looked the brightest side in the second chukka, scoring three times from open play against Argentina’s single penalty, the score 4 – 2 to New Zealand going into the final period. In a thrilling finale, Juan Manuel Echeverz put Argentina right back in it with two fine goals in as many minutes, but New Zealand ultimately proved too strong for the South Americans, the score at the bell seven goals to five.
In the post-match press conference, New Zealand captain Tom Hunt was confident about his side’s chances in the tournament. “This is the strongest team I’ve played in here, so we’re hoping we can continue our good form and go all the way.” The Argentinean team coach Facha Orozco was keen to praise the quality across the board at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club. “I’ve played all over the world, and the polo field, the horses and the organisation here is really first class. I have to congratulate everyone behind the Metropolitan Polo Club.”
The snow polo continues tomorrow as Hong Kong China take on Spain, Chile play the USA and Mexico line up against France.
Day 1 January 28, 2015
English vs Peru 6 – 5
Brazil vs Canada 9 – 1
New Zealand vs Argentina 7 – 5