(1/4 final) -Belgium vs. France: 4-5 (half-time: 1-1)
Exciting quarter-final between European Champions Belgium, widely expected to do well in this Junior World Cup, and a French team that had only lost to them on an overtime golden goal in semi-finals of the European Cup.
After boisterous renditions of their national anthems, both teams were immediately in overdrive action. Belgium earned a penalty-corner with a video-referral in the 2nd minute of play but their soft option was wide of goal. Pieter Van Straaten had the first chance for France with a high backhand shot that was deflected by Arnaud Flamand in the Belgian goal.
Match was hotly contested, on the pitch and in the stands between the two sets of very vocal fans. France missed their first penalty-corner attempt but Victor Charlet was on target in the 15th minute to give the lead to Les Bleus.
Belgium immediately turned up the heat and France were under pressure. Gaetan Perez tied the match in the 29th minute and the Belgians had two opportunities to take the lead before the break, first on a penalty-corner then during a wide scramble in the goalmouth when the ball hit the crossbar with the French defense at a loss to realize where the ball had bounced back.
Maxime Plennevaux gave the lead to Belgium in the 37th minute, but Hugo Genestet brought the teams back on par three minutes later with a well-executed penalty-corner option. The wild scoring spree continued and Dorian Thiery put Belgium back in the lead two minutes later! Maxime Plennevaux scored a spectacular diving goal and for the first time of the match one team had a two-gaol cushion.
It however did not last long as Jean-Laurent Kieffer promptly brought France back within reach and Theophile Ponthieu tied the score in the 58th minute! Both teams threw caution to the wind in the final ten minutes of the match. Belgium seemed to have the upper hand but France earned a penalty-corner with a video-referral and scored their third goal in a row by Jean-Laurent Kieffer, his second of the match and the seventh goal of the period, to step in the driver’s seat with four minutes to go.
Belgium replaced their goal-keeper with a field player two minutes from time, but the French players hanged on their lead and were soon dancing with their fans to celebrate their stunning win over the European Champions and their first ever accession to final four.
For more information and pictures of BEL vs. FRA, click here.
(1/4 final) - Netherlands vs. New Zealand: 3-2 (half-time: 1-0)
The Netherlands had danced their way to the top of Pool C with maximum points and a handsome goal-difference, while New Zealand had squeaked in second place of Pool D with a narrow win over South Africa.
Both teams started cautiously, possibly because of the midday heat, but the Netherlands were soon all over the Black Sticks circle, peppering goal-keeper Ben Smith from all angles. Play quickly became animated and New Zealand somehow survived another pinball session in their goalmouth and two penalty-corner attempts, with a little help from their post.
The Netherlands scrambled their third penalty-corners and were struggling to entangle themselves from the Black Sticks aggressive press. They did not help their cause by missing some clean chances and another penalty-corner, but Thierry Brinkman finally opened the scoring for The Netherlands in the 28th minute, receiving the ball alone in front of Ben Smith after the orange wave once again overwhelmed the Black Sticks defense.
It was however all they could produce and the break was reached with a narrow one-goal lead for The Netherlands. New-Zealand tied briefly the match in the 38th minute by Nicholas Woods on a penalty-corner. It was the wake-up call that the Netherlands needed and they scored two quick goals by Thierry Brinkman then Tom Hiebendaal on a penalty-stroke to establish a more comfortable cushion.
New Zealand tried to react, mostly with counter-attacks, but the Dutch had now found their marks and tightened the bolts. They were however mesmerized by a quick exchange of Black Sticks passes in the 60th minute that found Benedict Van Woerkom alone in the circle to blast the ball past Piet Noordam in the Dutch goal.
New Zealand replaced their goal-keeper with an additional field player with four minutes to go, and Dutch defender Pelle Vos picked up a yellow card, but the desperate final Black Sticks rush was too late and The Netherlands protected their narrow lead to be the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the Hero Hockey Junior World Cup.
For more information and pictures of NED vs. NZL, click here.
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