Netherlands v. Germany 3-1 (half-time: 1-1)
A berth in the semi-finals was on the line in the meeting between the two European giants, Germany and the Netherlands and it was the Dutch that claimed the first semi-final spot in the men’s tournament with a 3-1 win. It seemed only fitting that the man scoring the key go-ahead goal was veteran Teun de Nooijer, who was celebrating his 450th cap in front of the Dutch Royal family members Prince Willem and his wife Maxima.
The win guarantees the Dutch their seventh-consecutive top four finish and puts the defending Olympic champion, Germany, in peril of not cracking into the semi-finals. The Germans need to pick up at least one point in their game on Tuesday against New Zealand or hope for a Korean loss to make the playoffs.
Germany took the lead just two minutes into action on its first penalty corner chance. Christopher Zeller easily hit the mark on the chance to give the Germans the early 1-0 advantage, it would be the last that they would hold the advantage as the Dutch sparked back to life and never looked back. The lead lasted for just over 10 minutes when Bob de Voogd scooped up a rebound and fired in the second-chance shot to tie the game at one.
de Nooijer’s go-ahead goal came just moments into the second half as he was waiting by the far post for a spot on pass and gave the Dutch the 2-1 lead and more importantly the momentum to open the half, The Netherlands quickly built on their lead when Mink van der Weerden went top shelf on a penalty corner to open up a 3-1 lead.
The pace was fast and furious in the second half as the teams treated the sold out Riverbank Arena to end-to-end action. Germany did it’s best to climb back into the game, but the two-goal lead was too much to overcome as the Netherlands booked their semi-final ticket.
Germany closes its preliminary round action with the last game of the day on Tuesday against New Zealand, while the Netherlands will take on Korea in what are the two essential games for the semi-final picture in Group B
India vs. Korea: 1-4 (half-time: 1-1)
Korea scored 3 out of 5 penalty-corners to earn a comfortable win against India (4-1) and the third place in Pool B, leaving India dejected and still pointless in the competition.
Korea were promptly all over the Indian defense and Jang Jong Hyun opened the scoring on their first penalty-corner with an unstoppable flick under the crossbar. India reacted immediately and Gurwinder Singh Chandi equalized on a cross from Dharamvir Singh that eluded the Korean defense. They nearly scored again soon after on a similar move, with a ball stolen in midfield by Sardar Singh and relayed by Dharamvir Singh, but Lee Myung Ho in the Korean goal was up to the task this time.
Despite the rain hammering down the pitch and a storm brewing overhead, both teams maintained an attacking style with chances at both ends. Dharamvir Singh, very active today, had the Indian fans on their feet when he tried to reach a ball rolling tantalizingly close to the goal line, but a Korean defender intervened in the nick of time. They thought that they had scored on a penalty-corner with 4 minutes to go in the period, but the shot was deemed high. Sandeep hit the crossbar on the next attempt and the Korean defense cleared the third one, and halt-time was reached on par 1-1.
Second period was fast and furious, with end-to-end moves from both teams. Seo Jong Ho had a good chance after receiving the ball deep behind the defense, but he slipped when trying to turn around for the shot. Sardar Singh was all over the pitch for India, carrying the ball into the Korean circle and cleaning up in defense in the next breath. Dharamvir Singh had a few additional close misses, and it was finally the Koreans who broke the deadlock by Nam Hyun Woo on a swift penalty-corner option and a flick that shaved the post, out of reach of PR Sreejesh who had replaced Bharat Kumar Chetri in the Indian goal at half-time.
With time passing and a forth defeat looming large, India threw caution to the wind, using Sandeep Singh in a high forward position. The gambit was nearly successful, but not quite, and Lee Seung Il took advantage of the depleted Indian defense to crucify PR Sreejesh for a third goal. Nam Hyun Woo added another goal, his second of the match, on a penalty-corner earned on the buzzer, to push Korea to a comfortable victory and the third place in Pool B, leaving India dejected and still pointless in the competition.
For more information on IND v KOR, click here.
New Zealand vs. Belgium: 1-1 (half-time: 0-0)
New Zealand and Belgium kept the crowd well entertained with end-to-end attacking hockey but could only produce one goal each.
Belgium were the faster in action and Kyle Pontifex in goal for New Zealand was called three times into action in the opening minutes. New Zealand managed to weather the initial storm, including on a penalty-corner, and play soon became more balanced. Belgium had a few more dangerous chances and Pontifex was the busiest player on the pitch.
Play remained fast and entertaining for the whole first period, with chances at both ends. Belgium had a powerful push in the last ten minutes of the period and New Zealand were clearly back on their heels. They were at a point down to 9 players on the pitch after two green cards, and Belgium peppered the goal with shots, but Pontifex once again kept the Black Sticks afloat with some steady saves.
The same pattern resumed in second period, Pontifex having to make a save in the opening minute. The end-to-end action was keeping the crowd roaring, but it is only in the 50th minute that the Belgian fans could cheer in earnest, when Tom Boon was at the conclusion of a series of quick passes in the circle to lift the ball over the Black Sticks’ goalkeeper. Belgium could have increased the score soon after on a penalty-corner but Jerome Dekeyser’s flick was not powerful enough.
New Zealand came back in the match soon after by Nicholas Wilson after a strong solitary progression on the back line, and it was back to square one for the two teams. Both teams played for the win and action was fast and furious until the end, but the defense did not flinch.
With rain starting to pour on the Riverbank Arena, New Zealand had a last chance in the final minute but Andrew Hayward’s flick hit the post and the teams had to share the points of the contest, leaving them both with one win, one draw and two losses in the standings.
For more information on NZL v BEL, click here.
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