What incredible semi-finals! The suspense lasted right until the end. Although it will finally be the two favourite teams of the first day that will play the big final tomorrow at 3 p.m., things were not that simple for Clinique La Prairie and Banque Eric Sturdza.
In both games, a minute and a half from the end, it was impossible to know who was going to win. The suspense was perfect for the 2000 spectators who had gathered along the 275 meters of the field under a beautiful sun, which was this afternoon’s surprise guest contradicting all the weather forecasts.
In the first semi-final, Hublot started the game with a half goal advance because of its weaker handicap. Nico Lopez Fuentes scored the first goal of the match for Banque Eric Sturdza and indeed the team of Cedric Schweri was not too worried during the second and third chukkers. But it was not counting on Hublot‘s burst and the energy of Julio Novillo Astrada who scored three goals allowing his team to narrow the gap by one and a half goals just minutes from the end, but Marcelo Pascual annihilated the last hopes of Hublot scoring a decisive goal: “The game was very tight, admits the Argentinean 5-goaler, even tighter than the score shows. They came back very strong at the end of the game but fortunately we were able to regain control at the right moment.” The advantage of this team was perhaps due to the fact that it counts three professionals players in its ranks whereas their opponents only have two: “Of course that makes a difference, but today we could build a strong team game because we know each other better. We really played together” and they together reached the final that already seems very undecided against Clinique La Prairie.
The latter had even more trouble getting a ticket to the final. The battle fought against Gstaad Palace was even harder, especially in the last two chukkers. Hugo Barabucci, the back of Clinique La Prairie, opened the score in the first period but Gstaad Palace always stayed close. Although Clinique La Prairie took a small lead in the second period, Gstaad Palace never gave up, even taking the lead in the third chukker. At 90 seconds from the end of the game, everything was still possible for the latter especially as a 30 yards penalty hit by Pedro Llorente allowed them to get the advantage at 5 ½ to 5! A minute and a half in which Agustin Canale was also transforming a 30 yards and where captain Faris Al Yabhouni scored his second goal of the game in the ultimate second! For his first participation in the Hublot Gold Cup in Gstaad, the captain from the United Arab Emirates will play his first Swiss final. But not without cold sweats as explained by back and polo manager Hugo Barabucci: “To be honest, Gstaad Palace is a fantastic team and very well organized and we noticed it from the first day. We are happy to have been able to win this game. We expected a difficult game which ended in a beautiful and competitive meeting that could not have been possible without the quality of our opponent.” If, in the end, Clinique La Prairie had the last word, the Argentinian player gives it above all … to luck: “Yes, we were a little luckier than them, this is polo and we are happy to play the final tomorrow. Again, this is going to be a very tough game but what we want above all is to offer a beautiful final to this fantastic public of Gstaad.”
An audience that will be spoiled again tomorrow with two promising games since before the big final between Clinique La Prairie and Banque Eric Sturdza (3 p.m.), Gstaad Palace and Hublot will face each other at 1.30 p.m. in the subsidiary final for the third place.
Progression Banque Eric Sturdza : 2/2 ½ – 4/2 ½ – 7/3 ½ – 9/6 ½
Progression Clinique La Prairie : 2/2 ½ – 4/2 ½ – 4/4 ½ – 7/5 ½
Best scorers of the day: Agustin Canale (ARG, H6), Pedro Llorente (ARG, H5), Nico Lopez Fiente (ARG, H5) et Julio Novillo Astrada (ARG H7), 4 goals chacun
Best scorer of the tournament: Agustin Canale (ARG, H6), 12 goals