Strong finish to Team Fleming’s Worlds debut

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GOOD SHOW: Team Fleming, who represented Scotland at the World Women’s Curling Championship. Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart

Wins over both Olympic finalists gave Team Fleming a ninth-place finish on their World Women’s Curling Championship debut, just one win off being in playoff contention.

They ended up with a W5 L7 record in North Bay, and given that they lost five games before picking up their first victory, it was a case of what might have been for the Scottish rink.

We’re used to seeing Team Muirhead representing Scotland at these events, but Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright, Sophie Jackson (alternate)) won their place fair and square, by becoming Scottish champions and then beating Muirhead in the World Championship Playoff event in Perth.

Their lack of experience on the biggest stage seemed to take its toll in the opening few draws, however, as they lost to Russia, 8-4, and then Italy – 7-6, after taking a 6-4 lead after eight ends but then giving up steals in the 10th and extra ends.

Further defeats to the USA (8-6), the Czech Republic (11-4) and Switzerland (10-2) followed, as the Scots fell into a tailspin.

But they managed to pick up that crucial first win by beating Germany 8-5 (stealing three in end five), and although they then lost to Canada, 8-6, they did well to take the table-topping hosts right through to the 10th end.

Scotland then saw off Japan 10-7 and China 8-7 (another steal of three in the fifth end), before an 8-7 loss to Denmark halted their momentum and set up their tricky final games against Sweden and Korea – the same teams who had claimed gold and silver at Pyeongchang 2018.

Fleming stole three in end two and then scored twos in ends five and 10 to beat the Swedes 8-5, and followed that with a 6-5 victory over Korea after an extra end.

So that gave them ninth place out of 13 teams, and given that three teams finished on W6 L6 records (and two made the playoffs), they really weren’t far off at all.

Their finish to the round robin showed that they can compete with the best, and having made their debut at the top table, they can take that experience into future international events.

Ultimately gold went to Canada (Team Jones), who beat Sweden (Hasselborg) 7-6 after an extra end in the final, while Russia (Moiseeva) took bronze ahead of the USA.

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This week it’s the turn of the World Men’s Curling Championship to take centre stage, with Team Mouat representing Scotland in Las Vegas.

They warmed up for the event, where they look to challenge favourites Canada (Gushue) and Sweden (Edin) for gold, with victory at the Aberdeen International Curling Championship last week.

Group stage wins over Teams Pfister (6-4), Baumann (4-3), Bryce (7-4) and Van Dorp (5-3) were followed by a 5-2 loss to Muirhead, but they picked it up again in the knockout stages.

They knocked out fellow Scots Team Drummond in the quarter-finals, 7-4, and then showed they really have the sign over Team Smith this season by beating them 9-6 in the semis.

Team Schwaller of Switzerland were their opponents in the final, and twos in the first, third and seventh ends gave Mouat a 7-4 victory.

They go to Las Vegas with a really good shot of bringing back a medal… so long as they can carry the form they’ve shown throughout this season when it matters most.

***

We’ve also been treated to quite a bit of mixed doubles recently, with Judith and Lee McCleary taking third place at the Westbay Hungarian Mixed Doubles Cup last week, and the International Mixed Doubles Dumfries event taking place this week.

With Bruce Mouat heading off to the World Men’s Championship, Gina Aitken paired up with Duncan Menzies, and they finished joint top of Pool A with Michele Jaeggi/Sven Michel of Switzerland.

Pool B was headed by Jayne Stirling/Fraser Kingan – Scotland’s representatives at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in April – ahead of Hailey Duff/Robin Brydone, while Lisa Davies/James Craik topped Pool C.

The quarter-finals brought wins for Aitken/Menzies, Jaeggi/Michel, Stirling/Kingan and Zuzana Hajkova/Tomas Paul of the Czech Republic, and in the last four Jaeggi/Michel beat Hajkova/Paul 7-6 while Stirling/Kingan won their all-Scottish battle with Aitken/Menzies 8-7 after an extra end.

And Stirling and Kingan ensured a home victory in the final!

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No rest for the wicked

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Could Team Fleming upset Olympians Team Muirhead at this weekend’s World Championship Playoff? Photo: Graeme Hart/Perthshire Picture Agency

They say there’s no rest for the wicked, and there’s certainly none for Team GB’s Olympic curlers, as they fight for the right to represent Scotland at this year’s World Championships.

Teams Muirhead and Smith finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, and while that’s a disappointing contrast to Sochi 2014, it’s hard to be critical in what were remarkably open fields at the competition.

Team Smith did well to overcome the likes of Switzerland and Norway as they gave themselves a great chance of making the semi-finals; their losses came against Canada (no shame there), Sweden (the Edin machine), Korea (OK, that was a bad one) and the USA – who jumped aboard a winning train that took them all the way to a shock gold.

They were in a good position against the Swiss in the tiebreaker, too, but crucially gave Benoit Schwarz a chance to score five… an outside chance, but one that he took to win the game.

For a young team, and one still pretty inexperienced at the top level of curling, this was a good first outing at the Olympics; there were some missed opportunities, sure, but Team Smith represented GB and Scotland very well indeed.

Team Muirhead did make the semi-finals on the women’s side, of course, despite a rocky round robin that included an off-colour loss to the USA and an apparent equipment malfunction in their defeat to Sweden.

The Swedes were the best team out there, as they proved by winning gold, and ultimately they outplayed the Muirhead rink in the last four.

Clearly deflated after seeing their hopes of gold snuffed out, GB did not look themselves against Japan in the bronze medal match, and one could hardly begrudge the ever-smiling Fujisawa team their place on the podium.

There’s little time for reflection, though, as both Smith and Muirhead return to competitive action this weekend.

While they were away in South Korea, the Scottish Championships took place in Perth.

Team Mouat steamrollered the men’s field, winning nine from nine in the round robin, then the 1v2 page playoff against Team Drummond (8-3), before turning it up to 11 (straight wins) by beating Drummond again in the final, 7-5 this time.

Team Fleming had a bumpier ride in the women’s event, as they won their first five round robin matches but then lost their last three.

Still they beat Team Jackson 9-7 in the 1v2 game, and managed to sneak past them again in the final, 7-6 after an extra end, to finally claim that coveted Championship title.

So this weekend, March 3-4, brings the World Championship Playoff, again at the Dewars Centre in Perth, pitting Mouat against Smith and Fleming versus Muirhead.

Scottish Curling has confirmed that the event will go ahead, despite the chaotic weather conditions, and added that BBC Scotland will have live coverage of the event – hopefully benefitting from a post-Olympics bounce.

Hopefully we will be treated to some close matches in the best of three contests; Mouat’s season has been excellent, while Fleming have made steps towards closing the gap to Muirhead this campaign.

If I had to predict the winners now, I’d have to say Mouat and Muirhead… but we will have to wait and see!

The schedule is as follows:
Saturday: Men’s Draw 1 – 2pm; Women’s Draw 1 – 6pm
Sunday: Men’s Draw 2 – 10am; Women’s Draw 2 – 2pm; Men & Women’s Draw 3 (if required) – 6.30pm

***

Of course that’s not it for curling this weekend, not even in Scotland… for Aberdeen hosts the World Junior Curling Championships!

Scotland is represented by Team Whyte (men’s) and Team Morrison (women’s), and here’s hoping that they can continue the Scots’ fine recent record in this competition.

The event kicks off tomorrow at 9am, running through to March 10, and you can follow all the latest scores here.

Several matches can be watched live via World Curling TV, and BBC Sport Scotland will again have some coverage from Aberdeen.

Team Smith finish runners-up at German Masters – again!

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Team Smith came in second at the German Masters in Hamburg this week. Photo: Graeme Hart/Perthshire Picture Agency/British Curling

Teams Muirhead and Smith played their final competitions before the Winter Olympics next month, with both reaching the knockout stages.

The Muirhead rink (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) were one of seven Scottish teams – the others being Bryce, Fleming, Hamilton, K Jackson, Morrison and Wilson – to compete at the Glynhill Ladies International in Glasgow.

Only Muirhead and Fleming made it out of the group stages, and they faced each other in the quarter-finals.

It was a close-run thing that went all the way to an extra end, but Muirhead took their one with hammer to win 5-4.

They were stunned in the semi-finals, though, giving up four in the fifth end as they lost 8-1 to Team Feltscher of Switzerland – who went on to win the final 7-4 against compatriots Team Stern.

As for Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead), they were looking to go one better than last year at the German Masters in Hamburg, having been runners-up in 2017.

Joined by Teams Brewster, Bryce and Drummond, only Smith and Drummond made it to the knockout stages, where Smith beat Hess 7-2 to make the last four, but Drummond lost 6-1 to Pfister of Switzerland.

A 6-1 victory over Baumann sent Smith into the final, where they faced the Swiss Pfister rink, and led 2-0 before giving up three in the sixth end.

Skip Kyle Smith had a tough double takeout chance to win the game in the eighth end, but could only score one, and Pfister took one in the extra end to clinch it 4-3.

Still, these were promising performances for both Muirhead and Smith ahead of the Games in South Korea; fingers crossed for more of the same on the biggest stage of all.

***

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) were looking for a second straight Grand Slam of Curling title (!), after their success at the Boost National in November.

This week saw them take part in the Meridian Canadian Open in Camrose, Alberta, and they began with a superb 6-4 over Team Koe.

A loss to Gunnlaugson followed, and although they bounced back with a win over Shuster, defeats to McEwen and Edin saw the Mouat rink eliminated.

The men’s title went to Team De Cruz of Switzerland, after they beat Team Edin 5-3 in the final, while Team Carey won the women’s final 10-5 against Team Englot.

***

Unsurprisingly, things now quieten down ahead of the Olympics, but this week does see the Johnston Carmichael Scottish Curling Junior Championships take place at Curl Aberdeen.

There are eight men’s and nine women’s teams involved, with Teams Kinnear and Whyte looking like favourites on the men’s side, and Teams S Jackson and Morrison on the women’s.

You can follow the scores from the event, running from today (January 23) until Sunday (January 28), here.

Final preparations for the Olympic Games

 

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Team GB’s curlers for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Pic: British Curling/Alan Peebles Photography

 

This weekend marks the final preparations for Team GB’s representatives at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, with Team Smith in action at the German Masters and Team Muirhead involved in the Glynhill Ladies International.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead) are one of four Scottish rinks in Hamburg for the German Masters, as they are joined by the teams of Tom Brewster, Cameron Bryce and Greg Drummond.

Other rinks involved include Teams Baumann, Retornaz, Van Dorp and Walstad.

A fifth Scottish rink, Team Mouat, are out in Camrose, Alberta, for the Meridian Canadian Open, the latest Grand Slam of Curling event.

Mouat won the last Grand Slam – the Boost National in November – and they’ve started this event with a 6-4 win over Team Koe (Canada’s Olympic men’s team) and 6-4 loss to Team Gunnlaugson.

As for the women, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) are on home soil for the Glynhill Ladies International.

They made the quarter-finals of the International Bernese Ladies Cup, before going out to Team Wang of China, who went on to win the event.

Team Fleming clinched the Consolation prize at the same event, beating Team Jentsch of Germany in the final, and they are also at the Glynhill competition.

The other Scottish participants are the rinks led by Amy Bryce, Claire Hamilton, Katie Jackson, Rebecca Morrison and Maggie Wilson, while a strong international field includes Teams Feltscher, Moiseeva, Sidorova and Wang.

And… just a reminder that the Winter Olympics run from February 9-25!

Team Fleming make last eight and Canadian Olympic spots decided

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Team Fleming at Mountain Iron Buhl High School ahead of the Curl Mesabi Classic. Pic: facebook.com/teamfleming1

There was not quite the overseas success which Team Morrison enjoyed at the EJCT Austrian Women’s Cup the week before, but Team Fleming did a good job representing Scotland across the Atlantic this weekend.

A little further north of Minnesota, the hotbed of curling (and therefore the gold medal favourites in every Olympic Games) saw its Olympic representatives decided.

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Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) were in Eveleth, Minnesota (USA), for the Curl Mesabi Classic.

They began well, with wins over Teams Rhyme (5-2) and Martin (6-5), but defeats to Rocque (3-2) and Schultz (6-4) forced them into a tiebreaker with McPhee, which they won to make the quarter-finals.

The last eight pitted them against Rocque again, and once again the Grand Slam regulars were too strong, with twos in ends three and six helping them to a 6-2 victory – and Rocque went on the win the title, beating Roth in the final.

***

The Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings culminated in Ottawa, Ontario, this weekend, and it’s Teams Homan and Koe who will represent Canada at next year’s Olympic Games.

Team Carey topped the women’s round robin with eight wins from eight, but after Homan defeated reigning Olympic champions Jones in the semi-final, it was the current world champions who triumphed 6-5 in the final.

On the men’s side, Koe finished W7 L1 to book their place in the final; McEwen beat Gushue in the semi, but could not repeat the trick – Koe winning 7-6.

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They will be joined at Pyeongchang 2018 by Denmark men (Stjerne), Italy men (Retornaz), China women (Wang) and Denmark women (Dupont), after they emerged from the Olympic Qualification Event in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

That means that the Olympics will feature the following teams:

Men – Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, USA; women – Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, Russia (subject to International Olympic Committee decision), Sweden, Switzerland, USA.

***

Finally, this weekend also saw the Perth edition of the Asham Under-14 Slam take place at the Dewars Centre.

A total of 16 teams competed across four sections, before the High Road final was contested between Teams Chalmers and Maguire.

McGuire (Inca Maguire, Holly Wilkie-Milne, Laura Watt, Emma Allan) won 5-1 to clinch the title.

Team Mouat make Grand Slam history in Sault Sainte Marie

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CHAMPIONS: Team Mouat (photo: Alan Hannah/British Curling)

Team Mouat made curling history this weekend, becoming the first Scottish men’s rink to win a Grand Slam title, with Bruce Mouat the youngest ever skip to win a GSOC event.

They triumphed at the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, seeing off Canada’s best before beating Team Chang-Min Kim of South Korea in the final.

But first, a quick update on Scotland’s teams at the 2017 European Curling Championships…

Muirhead and Smith well positioned

We are three days into the 2017 European Curling Championships in St Gallen, Switzerland, and both Scottish teams hold W4 L1 records in the round robin stage.

On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead) have made a far better start than their previous campaign in Esbjerg in 2015, winning their first three – beating Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).

A blip followed, as they lost 6-4 to Germany, but Monday afternoon saw them bounce back in style, by beating Slovakia 8-1.

As for the women, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) faced a tough first couple of games – losing 5-2 to Sweden but beating Russia 8-7 (after an extra end).

Their next three games were more comfortable, as they overcame Denmark 6-1, Italy 8-1 and Germany 8-5.

Mouat’s moment of history

Now to events over the Atlantic, and the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario – which featured Teams Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregory Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) and Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan).

Drummond exited without winning a match, losing to Teams Koe (7-3), Jacobs (9-2), Lyburn (8-7) and Gunnlaugson (10-7).

By contrast, Mouat – who’d already had an amazing season, with back-to-back wins at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard and Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic, and Grant Hardie winning the World Mixed Curling Championships – were in it for the long haul.

They only just squeezed through from the round robin, though, having won two – against Balsdon (8-4) and Morris (8-2) – and lost two – against Gushue (7-6) and McEwen (7-2).

That meant a tiebreaker with Olympic champions Team Jacobs, and threes in ends one and five helped them to an 8-5 victory.

Another three (in end four), plus steals in ends one, two, five and six, helped them ease past Team Koe 7-1 in the quarter-finals, setting up a rematch with McEwen.

This time it was Mouat who triumphed, with two in the first end, three in the fourth and a steal in the fifth firing them to a 6-4 win – meaning they were only the second Scottish men’s rink to make a Grand Slam final after Team Smith at the Tour Challenge last season.

As the top Canadian teams fell by the wayside, a Mouat v Chang-Min Kim final was a surprising one, and the Scots began it with a steal of one.

Kim scored two and then stole, only for Mouat to hit back with three in the fourth end, and a steal in the fifth and score of four in the seventh wrapped up a brilliant 9-4 win to claim the historic title.

Team Mouat said: “It’s been one hell of a week.

“The final was closer than the score suggests but we managed to take control after a few missed shots from myself in the second and third ends with a big three in the fourth.

“It’s unbelievable to think we are the first Scottish men’s team to win a Slam.

“I am so proud of our effort this week and the fact that we never doubted ourselves when we were playing the top teams in the game.”

The women’s title went to Team Jones, who beat Team Scheidegger 8-7 in the final.

Bryce and Fleming make their mark

Not to be outdone, Teams Bryce and Fleming have also put together strong runs in Canadian competition.

Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) competed in the DEKALB Superspiel in Morris, Manitoba.

Their first match brought a loss, 7-6 to Team Jordan Smith, but having dropped to the B-Road they reeled off four straight wins to make the playoffs – beating Teams Friesen (7-0), Schwaller (6-5), Bohn (7-1) and Forrester (7-4).

The quarter-finals proved the end of the line though, as Schwaller of Switzerland got their revenge with a 6-5 victory after an extra end.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) have been in Alberta, for the Red Deer Curling Classic – and they took the shortest possible route to the quarter-finals, winning their three matches on the A-Road against Teams Marthaller (7-2), Brown (7-6) and Gushulak (5-4).

The last eight brought a clash with Team Moiseeva of Russia, and steals in ends seven and eight gave the Scots a 5-3 win.

They faced Team Fujisawa of Japan in the semi-finals, and that was where their run ended – with their opponents winning 7-5 after an extra end.

McClearys make the quarters

In a very, very busy weekend, we also had the Mixed Doubles Bern tournament in Switzerland, with Judith and Lee McCleary representing Scotland.

They made the playoffs with a W5 L2 record, having overcome Teams Iseli (11-1), Wendel (10-2), Stolt (6-4), Srnska (9-5) and Kasner (9-8) – the losses being to Mei (8-2) and Moskaleva (9-2).

Jaeggi/Michel ended their challenge, though, winning their last-eight encounter 8-2.

Also at the tournament, Anna Fowler of England paired with Thomas Jaeggi, and they won three and lost four to go out in the quarter-finals of the consolation event.

…And finally, the latest Asham Under-14 Slam took place at Curl Aberdeen, with Team Carson (Orrin Carson, Logan Carson, Archie Hyslop, Charlie Gibb) winning the high road final by beating Braehead Rockers 7-0.

Teams Fleming and McNay take the plaudits

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SMILES: Team Fleming. Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart (Perthshire Picture Agency)

Team McNay emerged victorious at the Dumfries Open, while over in Switzerland Team Fleming reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Masters Basel.

The weekend also saw the Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship take place, and Scotland (Team Hardie) begin their campaign at the World Mixed Curling Championship.

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The Women’s Masters Basel involved two Scottish rinks – Teams Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray).

Fleming took the simplest possible route to the playoffs, as wins over Witschonke, Norberg and Matsumura sent them straight into the quarter-finals.

Muirhead – the reigning champions – also began well, with victories against Widmer and Hegner, but a loss to Fujisawa (giving up three steals in the last four ends) knocked them down onto the B-Road.

A second defeat, to Sidorova, followed, but Muirhead then beat Widmer again and Sigfridsson to set up a last-eight clash with Fleming.

The all-Scottish match went Fleming’s way, as they scored twos in ends three and five and one in end eight to win 5-4, and Muirhead’s title defence was over.

Having put so much into that match, though, things rapidly fell apart for Fleming against Feltscher in the semi-finals… the Swiss rink winning 8-1.

The final went the way of Bingyu Wang’s rink, the Chinese team beating Feltscher 9-3 to claim the title.

For Hannah Fleming, who had not beaten Muirhead since 2013, this win (and overall tournament performance) will give her and her team-mates hope of narrowing the gap to their Scottish friends and rivals as the season goes on.

***

The second event in this year’s Goldline Scottish Curling Tour, the Dumfries Open, saw 10 teams take part – initially separated into two pools of five.

Team Jamieson topped Pool A with four straight wins, while Team Gallacher clinched Pool B and the other direct route into the semi-finals.

To see who would join them, Bryce met Taylor and McNay faced Pougher of Wales in the quarter-finals – which went the way of Bryce (8-3) and McNay (7-5).

Both of those rinks then won in the last four, Bryce seeing off Jamieson 7-4 and McNay breezing past Gallacher 7-1.

The final was a see-saw affair, with Bryce stealing their way into a 3-0 lead but McNay scoring three in the third end to level, before the teams traded singles up to end seven, where McNay scored two.

Bryce were forced to one in the eighth end, taking the game into an extra end, but McNay held hammer and scored one to win 7-6 – meaning it was they (Cameron McNay, David Baird, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) who took the title.

***

The Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship was held at Stranraer Ice Rink over the weekend, again with 10 teams in two groups.

The round robin stage ended with Teams Adam, Cannon, Kesley and McQueen making the semi-finals.

There, Adam beat McQueen 9-2 and Cannon overcame Kesley 8-5, setting up a final which was won 6-5 after an extra end by Adam (Graeme Adam, Alison McLennan, Stuart Wilson, Carolyn Hibberd).

***

There were 16 teams involved in the first Asham Under-14 Slam of the season at intu Braehead.

The final saw Team Munro (Robyn Munro, Findlay Hare, Rory Dodds, Ben Kyle) beat Braehead Rockers 5-3 in four ends.

***

Finally, at the World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, in Champéry, Switzerland, Scotland (Grant Hardie, Rhiann Macleod, Billy Morton, Barbara McFarlane) have two wins and a loss so far.

They opened with wins over Spain and Ireland, only to then lose 6-5 after an extra end to Korea.

Their next match sees them face Denmark; you can stay up to date with the scores from the tournament here.