(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

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Men's Pool A

Spain – Australia 2-5 (0-2 halftime)

Australia got back on track at the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final after soundly defeating Spain 5-2 in the second game of round robin action. It was Spain’s first loss in the group and keeps things wide open for top billing in the tightly-knit Group A.

The game was the meeting between the two top-ranked teams in the Group and could ultimately decide who comes out with top billing for the important quarterfinal game. Australia is currently the World #2 team, while Spain is ranked seventh.

Kieran Govers’ convincing penalty corner gave Australia the lead 13 minutes into the game. Spain did a good job of holding off the steadily improving Aussies through the half, but there was little they could do to stop the 2-0 goal when Christopher Ciriello fired in a second penalty corner goal to double the lead.

Spain had a small glimmer of hope when Eduard Tubau fired in a beautiful one-timer to cut the lead to 2-1 and put the Aussies on their toes. But the goal merely served to wake the sleeping giant as Australia sprung to life scoring three goals in a five-minute span to take a commanding 5-1 lead. Two tip ins from Keil Brown and Russell Ford made it four one and the icing on the cake came when Robert Hammond forced in a rebound on a penalty corner. Spain scored one last-gasp goal in the 70th minute to bring the final to 5-2.

After the three-game round robin, the teams will play a crossover game in the quarterfinal with the top team meeting the last-place team from the other group, and the second and third-ranked teams from the group doing the same. The difference between and first and second-place finish in the group has the potential to be monumental with essentially a World Cup berth on the line in the quarterfinal.

 

Belgium – France 3-0 (1-0 halftime)

Belgium earned its second win in as many games and took over sole possession of first place in Group A after a 3-0 win over France. The loss bumps France down to 0-2 and likely means the last edition to the World League Semi-Final will face a tough quarterfinal opponent.

It was the lowest scoring game of the event yet with Belgium’s Loïck Luypaert penalty corner goal in the eighth minute stood as the only offense of the game until Belgian captain Jerome Truyens doubled the lead in the 51st minute. A last-second goal from Tom Boon, that had to go to video review because it was so close to the buzzer, brought the final to 3-0.

The low-scoring affair was a far cry from what most expected from the meeting. With Belgium flying high after its upset win against Australia, most expected a goal-filled festival. But France did an excellent job of neutralizing the scoring threat from Belgium and defending the penalty corners they gave up.

The round robin phase will conclude on Sunday with France taking on Australia and Belgium facing Spain. Belgium leads the pack with six points, while Spain and Australia both are sitting on three points. France is the only team out of contention for first place in the group with zero points in two games.