England, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia qualified for the semi finals of the Hero Hockey World League Final in Delhi. All four teams faced tough challenges. While England showed resilience to soak up sustained pressure from Belgium to win 1-0, the Netherlands held on to a 2-1 lead despite a late surge by Germany. The Black Sticks came through the first shoot-out winning it 4-3 against Argentina. Australia had to overturn a 2-0 deficit to eventually defeat India 7-2.
Friday's semi finals see England taking on New Zealand with the Netherlands playing Australia. Germany will face India in the 5-8 classification while Belgium will play Argentina.
England v Belgium 1-0 (0-0)
In the first quarter final, a close-fought and tense match between England and Belgium saw the teams separated by a single goal. England, who remain unbeaten, looked very uncomfortable at times, but a series of saves by George Pinner kept England in the hunt for the title and consigned Belgium to yet another defeat. England were the first to score, but Tom Carson's goal was disallowed after a video referral. For most of the first half Belgium looked the sharper side and caught the England defence in possession on a number of occasions.
A defensive error by the world number four meant Belgium had a chance to attack, but two smart saves by Pinner kept the score sheet blank, the second a good reaction save from a close range shot from Jeffrey Thys. The second half saw Belgium take the initiative, winning a penalty corner in the opening minute. This drew another save from Pinner and acted as a spur to the England team. Two more penalty corners to England increased the pressure on the Belgium defence and it was Tom Carson (47') who scored the crucial opening goal, drag-flicking from the edge of the circle.
The match continued at an intense pace and the world No 4 team were forced to put up a staunch defence as Belgium piled on the pressure. Hero Man of the Match Pinner was called into action as first Tom Boon and then Gauthier Boccard made inroads into the England circle. England held on to book their place in the semi-finals on Friday, while Belgium will play off for 5th-8th place.
England coach Bobby Crutchley said: "We needed to put our corners away, that would have relieved the pressure a little." But he added that he was delighted with the way his team had dealt with the pressure. "Belgium are a really good side, so we are more than pleased with the result."
His counterpart, Marc Lammers said: "This was a good game, and we played much better in the second half. The problem was that we missed too many chances. Our defence and midfield was okay, but the attackers really need to improve, there was less danger from them."
For more information on ENG v BEL click here.
Germany v Netherlands 1-2 (0-2)
The men in orange started the game in dominant style winning a penalty corner, which was flicked home by Mink van der Weerden in the first minute. The Olympic silver medallists put pressure on the Olympic champions and this resulted in their second goal a few minutes later. Seve van Ass (6’) got the final touch to double Oranje’s lead.
The second half saw Germany playing with more intensity; it took them less than three minutes to get on the scoreboard. Florian Fuchs kept possession in the circle and linked well with team-captain Oliver Korn who tipped the ball into the goal. The game was really end to end with the European champions taking hold of the game towards the final whistle. Such was the shape of the game that most of the action took place in the centre of the pitch with quick turn-overs making the match very entertaining.
The Netherlands were clearly pleased with the result, although they acknowledged that they nearly let their opponents back into the game. Robbert Kemperman said; "This is a great feeling. We had a tough last 10 minutes as the German's really came at us and we were not as sharp as we should have been in the second half. Really we should have closed the game down earlier."
Captain of the German team, Oliver Korn said that before the game the whole squad really wanted to stamp their mark on the game, but they "were asleep at the start of the game." Coach Markus Weise agreed: "We didn't play well in the first half and some of the boys didn't do the work that they needed to. We were much better in the second half but one good half is not enough when you are playing the best in the world. Really, I was not satisfied with the way we took our penalty corners today."
For more information on GER v NED click here.
Argentina v New Zealand 1-1 (0-1), 3-4 SO
The first shoot out of the Hero Hockey World League Final took place between New Zealand and Argentina after full-time delivered a 1-1 draw. The eventual winners were New Zealand after they won in the sudden death round of the penalty shoot out. The match was very much a game of two halves, Hero Man of the Match, Kane Russell (8') shot the Blacks Sticks into an early lead and New Zealand dominated the first 35 minutes. This was reversed in the second half with Argentina piling on the pressure. With 20 minutes left on the clock, New Zealand appeared to have weathered the Argentine storm, however, the defence couldn't hold out indefinitely and the inevitable occurred when Matias Paredes (59') scored from open play.
As neither team found the net in regular time, the game went to penalty shoot out. At the end of the first round, both teams were drawing, with two successful penalty attempts each. The second round was sudden death and both Agustin Mazzilli and Hugo Inglis scored. Lucas Vila failed to score for Argentina, and it was Blair Hilton who became the hero of the hour as he took the ball wide around the Argentine goal keeper, Joaquin Berthold and scored to put New Zealand through to the semi-finals.
Coach Carlos Retegui said after the match that he thought his team had played a good second half, but that had not been enough to secure the win. "When we started to play we were good," he added. Looking forward to his semi final confrontation with England, the New Zealand coach Colin Batch said: "England have been playing very well. We hope they have an off day. We have had an up and down tournament, we have faded during some of our matches and we need consistency over 70 minutes."
For more information on ARG v NZL click here.
Australia v India 7-2 (3-2)
A bright start by India threatened to provide the shock of the tournament but Australia showed just why they are world champions by turning a 2-0 deficit into a 7-2 victory at the Hero Hockey World League Final in Delhi. Birenda Lakra (6’) opened the scoring for India and Yuvraj (11’) doubled the lead a few minutes later much to the delight of the crowd. “It wasn’t looking so good for us in the first 15 minutes. Of course I was worried”, Kookaburra coach Ric Charlesworth said.
The turnaround started in the 24th minute when Nicholas Budgeon put the Kookaburras on the scoreboard by smashing in a penalty corner. Jason Wilson’s (29’) equalised just before halftime and Glenn Turner (35’) made it 3-2 marking his 100th cap with a goal. The world champions dominated throughout the second half. Russell Ford (41’) extending the lead to 4-2. Then Simon Orchard (45’) smashed in a shot from the top of the corner making it 5-2. Ford (47’) made it 6-2 and Jacob Whetton’s (65’) scored to make it 7-2.
India's coach Terry Walsh, said that his team had not been able to cope with the physicality of Australia. "The physiological make-up of the Indian players needs to develop further. Our players are up against big, strong men and when it is like that fatigue sets in."
For more information on AUS v IND click here.
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