(Photo: © Wolfgang Sternberger)
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The Netherlands staved off elimination with a late goal keeping their World Cup aims alive in the final match of a dramatic day six at the BDO Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach.
With each match having a bearing on the semi final qualifiers, the Dutch were in the most precarious position, with anything except a victory against England ending their campaign at the earliest point since 1986.
The match could not have started worse for the Netherlands, Walking the tightrope, England threatened to knock the Dutch into World Cup oblivion with two goals in the opening 10 minutes
However the Dutch responded well with Teun de Nooijer’s drive from midfield instrumental in the fightback.
After recovering the deficit by half time, England again took the lead early in the second half only to concede it soon after. Then, nine minutes before being bundled out of the World Cup, the Dutch scored the winner/
While their semi finals hopes are dashed, England are now fourth on the Pool B points table and need at least a draw against South Africa on Wednesday to maintain their spot in the 5-8 playoffs.
England could not have done much more in a breathtaking match that was the highlight of a dramatic and enthralling day.
After six days and 22 matches, the identity of the semi finalists is far from resolved. Korea and Spain took giant strides today but still need a positive result in the final preliminary round match.
In the day’s opening match, Spain responded to the pressure with a comfortable yet unconvincing victory over New Zealand.
Although the scoreboard signalled a regulation win for the world number four, they relaxed late in the match and allowed New Zealand to produce a number of good scoring chances.
Only a significant drop in form and concentration will deny Spain a final preliminary round victory against Japan and with it a guaranteed third World Cup semi final appearance.
Their goal scoring creativity delivered 15 goal shots against New Zealand and a similar output against Japan should be more than enough to prevail and qualify for the semi finals.
For their semi final hopes to be realised, New Zealand must defeat Olympic champions and world number one Australia in the first match tomorrow.
Black Sticks coach Kevin Towns likened the challenge awaiting his team to climbing Mount Everest. However with an understated air of confidence and a wry grin, he countered that the first person to conquer the mountain was a Kiwi and that his team would be ready for the contest.
The second half commitment of his team would have pleased Towns today and with better scoring touch, the result could have been decidedly different.
Towns remarked that with Australia missing two first choice players through injury and not currently playing at their best, tomorrow night might be an opportune time for the Black Sticks to strike.
Korea captivated the crowd with a come from behind win against India after looking like being their first team to stumble when the pressure was applied.
After a disappointing draw with South Africa, Korea was less than 80 seconds from recording a similar result against India before producing a heart-stopping victory.
India again took the lead into half time of a match only to be caught in the second half. Their position on the points table does not necessarily reflect their performances but they have lacked the fitness to run out matches and defend their lead in the second half.
While they are now almost certainly condemned to the playoffs for positions 8-12, coach Vasudevan Baskaran said he was still proud of the efforts of his team and that there was much to like about the way his players had performed.
A penalty stroke was the difference between Argentina and Pakistan, with the South American champions recording their first win of the tournament and simultaneously leaving their opponents needing a hockey miracle to advance to the medal rounds.
Sohail Abbas hit the crossbar twice from penalty corners for Pakistan and Muhammad Zubair also had his shot tip onto the bar as Pakistan’s luck deserted at the most crucial point of its World Cup campaign.
Argentina’s victory now gives it a great chance of climbing out of the bottom run fog the points table and into the classification matches for places 5-8.
Such was the pride in his team’s performance, Argentina coach Sergio Vigil was moved to tears in his press conference. Vigil said he was thankful to his team because they left their soul on the pitch in pursuit of victory.
Two alternatives exist for Pakistan that will see them advance to the final four, but both are reliant on results outside their control.
The first scenario involves a draw between Australia and New Zealand draw tomorrow coupled with a Pakistani victory over the world number one on Wednesday, These results will ensure they nudge the Black Sticks out of second position on goal difference.
The second, and less likely equation, is a Spanish defeat of Japan combined with a Pakistan victory against Australia. These results will give it a great enough goal difference to overtake Spain in second position.
While a mathematical possibly exists, there is hope for Pakistan, but the chances of such an outcome are remote. However given the results and fluctuating form of all teams thus far, it unlikely the determination of the top two places in each Pool will be straight forward.
Tomorrow’s matches will be a repeat of the drama today. Play starts at 14:00 with Japan’s clash with Spain.