(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

England have guaranteed their place at next year’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup by defeating Japan 5-0 in the Semi Finals at the Hockey World League Semi Final in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The result sets up a meeting with Argentina, who defeated South Africa 2-0 in the first Quarter Final of the day.

The team coached by Bobby Crutchley sealed a berth at the 2014 event by virtue of a “worst case scenario” fourth place finish here in Johor. It is already known that at least one of the two fourth placed teams in the Hockey World League Semi Final stage will qualify for the World Cup. As England’s World Ranking (4) is higher than that of New Zealand (6), the fourth placed finishers in Rotterdam, England’s safe passage is assured.

England started the brighter of the two teams and could easily have been ahead inside the first ten minutes. Richard Smith had the best of the early chances, but sent his penalty corner drag-flick sailing over the crossbar. Japan struggled to get out of their own territory for long periods, and eventually the pressure told when England’s hard running forced a defensive error and the game’s opening goal. Simon Mantell was the creator, stealing possession on the backline before providing the perfect pass for the onrushing Mark Gleghorne, who slammed the ball into the goal from nine metres out.  

The Europeans added to their tally three minutes later thanks to a glorious penalty corner routine, with Barry Middleton sliding in at the right post to guide a pin-point pass from Ashley Jackson into the roof of the net.

In the second half it was more of the same from England, who quickly moved the score-board onto 4-0 courtesy of goals in the 44th and 48th minutes through Harry Martin and Simon Mantell. Both were beautiful backhand efforts, with Martin’s strike finding the top right corner before Mantell cracked a shot just inside the left post.

England continued to assert their authority on the match and completed the scoring through Dan Fox, who hit a perfect penalty corner strike that hit the very top of the backboard in the 56th minute.