Today's last round of pool matches started off with the encounter between New Zealand and Argentina, a draw good enough for both to ensure they meet again in tomorrow's final, followed by a convincing win by India over Japan that put them in the bronze medal match. The day's play finished with the two European competitors in the event, Belgium and England doing battle over the other spot in the match for third place, a fight that England won easily.
In the first match's early phase, both teams produced an unusually high number of errors and turnovers, making for a jerky and none too attractive match. New Zealand made good use of their second penalty corner of the match however, when Phillip Burrows deflected a Hayden Shaw hit. Argentina's reply was immediate, Lucas Vila sinking a beautiful reverse stick hit from a narrow angle within a minute. Juan Garreta gave Argentina the lead ten minutes later, but the Kiwis soon enough scored the equalizer with a Hayden Shaw penalty corner conversion.
Subsequently, Argentina played all second half without veterans Almada and Lombi, in Almada's case most probably a safety measure to avoid him picking up another card that would put him out of tomorrow's final. Doing quite well without them, Lucas Vila, one of today's key players for Cacho Vigil's side, regained the lead for his side with two minutes to go, converting a penalty corner.
Seconds from the end of the match, Hayden Shaw levelled the score once more with a cracking penalty corner flick and his second goal of the day but one point was enough for Argentina to join New Zealand in the final and ensure today's rematch.
In the second encounter of this day that was so rich in goals, India took on Japan who still had a theoretical possibility of reaching the bronze medal match by defeating India. They never really managed to challenge their Indian counterparts today however, and it was soon clear that India would take the match.
India scored first but Japan promptly got the equalizer but only to have their hopes crushed again when Prabjhot Singh landed a double hit before the break to give his team a comfortable two goal lead. Takahiko Yamabori gave Japan back some hope when he brought out his specialty penalty corner flick to reduce the lag to one goal but Dilip Tirkey replied within a minute for India, slotting a penalty corner in between Japanese goalkeeper Shunsuke Nagaoka and the right post.
Kazuhiro Tsubouchi managed to get one back for Japan late in the game, but Japan could not avoid defeat and will have to line up in tomorrow's match for fifth place. India won the match deservedly and are now headed for the bronze medal match.
Wrapping up the day, England and Belgium added another 8 goals for an astonishing daily total of 21. The English who had had such a disappointing start into the tournament took charge early in the match and never looked back, putting six goals past Belgian keeper Cedric Degreve to clinch their berth in the bronze medal match.
In the first half, Belgium offered some resistance but were caught on the wrong foot by a double hit from the English late in the half. After the break, the Brits came out putting heavy pressure on the Belgian defense but it was the Belgians who scored next as a Jerome Dekeyser penalty corner goal briefly brought hope to the Belgian team and fans, only to see Simon Mantell sinking the first of his two goals today to restore the lead.
Matt Daly added another before Belgium could get their second in with Gregory Gucasoff converting another penalty corner. With ten minutes to go, there was another brief ray of hope for the home team, but England were on a roll and piled on two more through Jonty Clarke and Simon Mantell.
England are thus - somewhat surprisingly considering their slow start into the tournament - in the bronze medal match against India tomorrow, while hosts Belgium are confined to facing Japan in the match for 5th place.
For more from the BDO Champions Challenge in Boom, visit the WorldHockey tournament site.
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