Belgium striker Tom Boon
Belgium striker Tom Boon
(Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

The final round of pool matches in the men's GANT EuroHockey Championship saw England crush France and Germany outclass Russia before the encounter between Netherlands and Ireland turned into a 7-4 goalfest. The day ended with the day's highest stakes game, in which Belgium narrowly defeated Spain for their place in the semi-finals and ticket to London.

The day started with the clash between France and England, which turned out to be mostly one way traffic. Making their first opportunity count in the 8th minute, Ashley Jackson converted a penalty corner. Richard Alexander followed up little later, before Jackson added his second. After the break, the French used an advantage in numbers after a green card wisely to score their only goal of the match, only to find England respond with two goals in two minutes to surge ahead to 5-1. The match was decided now, and England dictated play, adding three more goals for a 8-1 end result.

Rounding up the men's pool B, Germany took on Russia in an equally one-sided encounter. Establishing an early 2-0 lead by the 6th minute after Jan-Marco Montag had converted two penalty corners with cracking flicks, the hosts easily controlled the game, but took 25 minutes to further extend their lead, as Mo Fürste's short corner flick found the net. After the break, the Russians were struggling to keep up more and more, looking exhausted and tired, and Germany had an easy ride to a 7-0 scoreline at the final whistle.

The Netherlands and Ireland took to the field next in what became a highly entertaining encounter. After an early goal from Oranje's Bob de Voogd, Holland were the more dangerous team but it was Ireland who scored through Eugene Magee and William McCabe to give the Dutch a real fright. Unfazed as always, it only took Taeke Taekema two penalty corner opportunities however to set things right, and the teams went into the break with the Netherlands 3-2 in the lead. After the break, Taekema was still red hot and piled on two more, before team captain Teun de Nooijer raised the stakes to 6-2. Despite the scoreline, the match still was an entertaining back-and-forth with chances for both sides, and the Irish were playing their hearts out, inching closer again through a Timmy Cockram goal. In the last two minutes, another two goals were piled on, Bob de Voogd scoring for Holland, and Michael Watt for Ireland, for a 7-4 final score that sees the Netherlands come out on top of pool B and confirms France as top European side, despite having to go to the relegation pool.

The day ended with the biggest game, the direct clash for second place in Pool A: it was London or qualifier time for Spain and Belgium. Once more cheered on by the largest and loudest group of supporters, Belgium started hungrier, more aggressive, and more dangerous than the Spaniards. Against the run of play however, it was Roc Oliva who found the net first for the Iberians with a brilliant reverse stick mid air swing. With the Belgians visibly disheartened, the Spaniards started gathering momentum, and added their second ten minutes later, at the hands of Juan Fernandez. Belgium recovered fast, and began playing with more structure and effectiveness, and finally became able to put pressure on their opponents - for the moment without being able to make it count however, and the teams went into half time at 2-0 in Spain's favor.

Belgium were far from done, and five minutes into the second half, a fantastic reverse stick shot by Max Luycx from the edge of the circle put the Red Devils back in hot pursuit. A controversial penalty corner little later had Tom Boon put a powerful ball into the bottom left corner for the equalizer which saw the stands erupt in celebration - a draw would already have been enough for Belgium to secure their ticket to London. Nonetheless, Jérôme Dekeyser added one more for a clean victory, sealing Spain's fate and slip into the relegation pool.

The semi-finals in the men's tournament will thus see Belgium take on their neighbours from the Netherlands, while Germany clash with England. In the relegation pool, Spain are at the top thanks to their 5-0 win over Russia, followed by Ireland who take their 2-0 against France with them into pool C.

For more information on this event, please visit the EHF website www.eurohockey.org.

The EuroHockey Championships, held in Mönchengladbach from 20 to 28 August 2011, will confirm 5 more participants in the 2012 Olympic hockey tournament in addition to the already qualified Great Britain men and women, Pakistan men and China and Korea women: the highest ranked three men's and two women's teams, excluding England, will secure their ticket to London.


Men

France - England 1:8 (0:3)
Ashley Jackson 3, Richard Alexander 2, James Tindall 2, Adam Dixon; Fabien Magnier

Germany - Russia 7:0 (3:0)
Jan-Marco Montag 2, Moritz Fürste 2, Thilo Stralkowski, Christopher Wesley, Florian

Fuchs

Netherlands - Ireland 7:4 (3:2)
Bob de Voogd 2, Taeke Taekema 4, Teun de Nooijer; Eugene Magee, William McCabe, Timothy

Cockram, Michael Watt

Belgium - Spain 3:2 (0:2)
Maxime Luycx, Tom Boon, Jérôme Dekeyser; Roc Oliva, Juan Fernandez