New Zealand and the Netherlands are through to the finals of the Hero Hockey World League Final after hard-fought semi final matches. England will play Australia in the bronze medal match. The Black Sticks came into their semi final match hoping to reverse the 1-5 defeat at the hands of England in the pool match earlier in the Hero Hockey World League Final. In fact, at full time both teams were level pegging, but Colin Batch's men were cooler in the shoot out and emerged 7-6 winners to qualify for the final.
New Zealand's Simon Child, who was the Hero Man of the Match said: "We were really disappointed with our first match against England, losing 1-5, so we are pleased to have turned that around." The Black Sticks certainly started more dangerously, winning four penalty corners in quick succession but George Pinner, in the England goal, made some sharp saves to keep the ball from the back of the net.
The England defence was breached finally by Marcus Child (12'), who fired a hard shot home from wide of the goal. New Zealand were unlucky not to double that scoreline when an unmarked Simon Child hit the side netting. England bounced back through after Harry Martin (23') dived full-length to score from a cross from Mark Gleghorne.
It was England who took the lead in the second half when Gleghorne (49') fired home from the right-hand side of the circle. New Zealand refused to give up and continued with their attacking style of play, stretching the England defence. The Black Sticks were rewarded with two goals in quick succession, firstly from Stephen Jenness (61') and then Hugo Inglis (62'). Ashley Jackson (64') scored England's equaliser after Barry Middleton was fouled en route to goal.
In the shoot out, the sides remained level after the first five attempts, and it all came down to sudden death. Both sides remained neck and neck until Harry Martin missed for England and Phil Burrows became the Black Sticks hero alongside the keeper Devon Manchester.
The England coach, Bobby Crutchley, said: "I thought the shoot out would last forever, but that shows the high quality. The pressure under which both teams played in the shoot out was impressive. I am not totally happy with today's performance." And winning coach Batch said: "We are doing well on shoot outs, it was the difference between winning or losing. The shoot out lasts so long because the players are technically good and the goal keepers are getting better and better. Devon Manchester was outstanding. After our poor start, a lot of people will be surprised to see us in the final."
New Zealand will be joined by the Netherlands in the final after they won their semi final 4-3 against Australia. Constantijn Jonker (12’) opened the scoring at the beginning of the first half when his reverse stick shot found its way into the net and the Dutch doubled their lead when Mink van der Weerden’s (20’) dragflick left the Aussie keeper Tyler Lovell stranded.
The match swung Australia's way in the second half. The first Kookaburra goal came out of two minutes of intense Aussie pressure on the Dutch goal and Kieran Govers (42’) was able to capitalize on a penalty corner. Five minutes later Russell Ford (47’) levelled the score to 2-2 when deflecting a long pass into Jaap Stockmann’s goal. The world champions fought hard to get another one and it came courtesy of Govers (55’) who fired home a penalty corner. This was his sixth goal in this competition making him the new top scorer of the Hero Hockey World League Final.
Jeroen Hertzberger (62’) brought the Netherlands back into the race by equalising from open play. With four minutes remaining van der Weerden (66’) put the game beyond Australia’s reach when converting his second penalty corner. Hero Man of the Match, Van der Weerden said: "It was a great game, we all played well, and when necessary we fought back very well. Australia played a great game." Bob de Voogd added: "We knew that Australia would press in the second half, but we reacted in time and didn't panic."
Speaking about the forthcoming final match against New Zealand de Voogd said: "We haven't played New Zealand yet, but they are like Australia, straight forward and direct. We need to stick to our game plan." The Australian captain, Mark Knowles, said: "When you play in a semi final you always want to win. We played with courage, but we also gave them some easy options."
Govers said: "This tournament has been a massive learning curve. We had some new players in our squad so it was good for them to be exposed to playing some of the best players in the world." Both Govers and Knowles said they were looking forward to tomorrow's match against England for third place.
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