(1/2 final) - France vs. Malaysia: 1-1 (shoot-out: 3-1 - half-time: 0-1)
Malaysia were quicker in action in this semi-final, surprising the French defense with a quick free hit drilled into the circle that found Azri Hassan totally unmarked in front of goal with plenty of time to beat Edgar Reynaud.
France had trouble finding their rhythm, but progressively pushed forward closer to the Malaysian circle. Simon Martin Brisac had a chance in the 20th minute after working hard on the back-line but was left with no angle and his shot went in the side net. After hitting the post on their first penalty-corner, the French had most of ball possession but could not penetrate the Malaysian defensive maze, bouncing back again and again.
France hit the post again on their second penalty-corner. They were however depleting their backfield in their quest for the equalizer and Malaysia were dangerous on a few swift counter-attacks in the back of the French defense. Play was intense, with plenty of actions, but no more goals were scored and the Asian Champions went into the break with a very narrow one-goal lead.
France took advantage of a yellow card to Helmi Jali early in second period to increase their pressure. Action was confined in the Malaysian defensive end but, for all their efforts, France could not get the elusive equalizer.
Action was exciting and entertaining, flowing back and forth at full speed, with some heated exchanges. France were briefly down two players and the Asian Champions also collected their good share of cards. Hafizuddin Othman saved a third penalty-corner flicked high in goal, but France were finally rewarded of their persistence in the 63rd minute when Jean-Laurent Kieffer managed a slight touch on a ball drilled into the circle to tie the proceedings, send the large group of French fans into raptures and set up a torrid end of match.
Both teams threw caution to the wind to force a decision. France had the momentum and peppered the Malaysian goal but to no avail and the match needed to be decided by a penalty shoot-out competition, the first of this competition.
France missed their first attempt but Corentin Saunier outplayed two Malaysian strikers to put his team back on top, with Hugo Genestet finishing the job to send Les Bleus in the final of the 2013 Hero Hockey Junior World Cup.
For more information and pictures of FRA vs. MAS, click here.
(1/2 final) - Germany vs. Netherlands: 5-3 (half-time: 2-0)
Formidable encounter between two giants of the game, used to stand on podiums. This match-up was the final of the last Junior World Cup, when Germany narrowly prevailed over the Netherlands, but the Dutch finished one step higher than the Germans at the last Junior European Cup.
The chess game began from the opening whistle. Germany patiently worked their way up-field and earned a penalty-corner in their first incursion in the Dutch circle, scored by Lukas Windfeder with a high drag flick. The Orange seemed unphased and immediately went back to the task at hand.
Germany seemed like an impregnable fortress and their goal-keeper Victor Aly was hardly seen any action. They had another penalty-corner in the 14th minute and Lukas Windfeder dutifully scored his second of the match, this time with a low flick. The Netherlands substituted their goal-keeper after this second goal and replacement Jan De Wijkerslooth was immediately into the match, calmly deflecting a high shot blasted from close range.
The Netherlands were keeping the German forwards well in check but only had their first real scoring chance on a penalty-corner at the very end of the period. They could not finish their elaborate option and Germany walked into the break with a relatively comfortable two-goal lead.
Tom Hiebendaal gave a scare to the German goal-keeper early in second period with an instant shot from the top of the circle that just shaved the outside of the post. Germany however increased their lead in the 47th minute after a phenomenal 50-meter run by Christopher Rühr through the whole Dutch defense concluded by a shot blasted over the keeper’s head for his eighth goal of the tournament.
The Dutch suddenly surged forward and scored two goals in a minute, first by Tom Hiebendaal on a penalty-stroke then by Thierry Brinkman on the next action, rattling the German confidence and setting the stage for an exciting end of game. Things got totally exciting in the 60th minute, when Tom Hiebendaal was pushed down while shooting on goal, earning a penalty-stroke which he converted himself to tie the score.
The Dutch now had the momentum for a while but Max Kapaun then Niklas Wellen gave back a solid lead to Germany going into the final minutes to earn their ticket for the final against France on Sunday, while the Netherlands will play for bronze against Malaysia.
For more information and pictures of GER vs. NED, click here.
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