(Photo: © Wolfgang Sternberger)
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After three full rounds of competition, the majority of the 12 teams are still in semi final contention, with no-one able to establish dominance and pull away from the chasing pack.
Two of the world’s top four teams, the Netherlands (world number two) and Spain (world number two), are in a delicate position just outside the semi final positions in their respective Pools.
Of the pair, Spain is in the better position. The European champions trail Australia by just one point and New Zealand by two but will get a chance to make their move tomorrow with a clash against the Black Sticks.
With a three-point deficit to overhaul, the Netherlands must win their remaining two matches and then rely on Korea or Germany dropping available points. This scenario is guaranteed to occur with Korea and Germany scheduled to meet in the final round, meaning that at least one team will slip in the coming days.
Spain had a chance to press their semi final chances against Pakistan in today’s opening match but ran into a committed opposition defence which they were unable to sufficiently break down.
Pakistan’s superb defensive display kept Spain in check for most of the match with only minor lapses letting the Europeans into scoring position. Mental strength and a willingness to fight out close matches has been a key component of Pakistan’s solid play in this tournament.
In a worrying sign for Spain, they have been the more dominant team for majority of their past two matches but have only accrued two points as a result. The significant advantage they earned after an opening round win over Australia has been squandered and they are under pressure now
Pakistan and Spain’s draw was hugely beneficial to Oceania representatives New Zealand and Australia. After the Kookaburras’ victory over Japan in the last match, the pair now sits on top of the Pool A points table, with the Black Sticks on seven points and Australia on six.
Pakistan and Spain are locked on five points, but with matches between the quartet to occur between now and the end of the round robin phase, predicating the two teams to emerge from the Pool is impossible.
Pool A is just as complicated. Korea conceded the lead twice in the second half to draw with South Africa and give the Netherlands and England more than a passing chance of making up the difference that currently exists.
Germany’s win over England was hard fought as the visitors played for their World Cup survival. A goal in each half proved the difference with England lacking firepower in attack to take advantage of some adventurous midfield play.
Germany have a three-point lead over the Netherlands with matches against South Africa and Korea to come. Four points from these matches will be enough to secure a semi final berth.
Tomorrow will make or destroy the semi final chances of some teams. Play starts at 14:00 local time with Spain’s clash with New Zealand.