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Spain, Germany and Korea have joined Australia in the semi finals of the BDO Hockey World Cup after the Pool matches came to a close with a fascinating final round in Monchengladbach, Germany, today.
In a major shock, world number two the Netherlands were dumped from contention without taking the pitch as Germany and Korea played out a tame draw that ensured both safe passage to the semi final stage.
Needing a draw for both teams to advance to the final four, Korea and Germany played like they were afraid to lose and in an ultra defensive clash, neither team consistently threatened the other team’s goal circle.
Germany did manage a few shots at goal, with the best coming midway through the second half. However with so much at stake, the safety-first approach was always going to be the most expected tactic.
The match staggered to a scoreless draw and without a penalty corner being conceded by either team, as the home team claimed top spot in Pool B on goal difference. The result gave Germany top spot in the Pool and a semi final against European champions Spain.
In the semi finals on Friday, Australia will meet Korea and Germany will face Spain.
The Korea-Germany match was significant for South African umpire John Wright, who officiated in his 100th international. The two-time Olympic umpire started his international career in 1996 and became the first South African man to reach the milestone.
While elimination is a bitter pill for the Dutch, there is little doubt that every team in the competition would do everything in their power to avoid defeat if faced with similar circumstances.
After claiming a medal at the past three World Cups, the Dutch will miss the semi finals for the first time since 1986 in London. After claiming the Champions Trophy in Terrassa just one month ago, are the major surprise of the tournament.
They paid for a poor start to the tournament, with a loss to Korea on the opening night ultimately the decisive result in their five preliminary round matches. While they will be disappointed with the endeavour of Germany and Korea today, they only have themselves to blame for failing to produce their best form when it mattered.
The Netherlands coach Roelant Oltmans admitted as much, saying that if the Dutch had achieved better results against either Korea or Germany earlier in the tournament, they would never have been put in the they were in this afternoon.
Despite his obvious disappointment, Oltmans admitted that the closing gap between the established hockey powerhouses and the challenging teams was good for the international profile of the sport, even though it had resulted in his team’s elimination from title contention.
Korea’s entry into the final four is a great reward for their efforts in Monchengladbach. Unheralded by most at the start of the tournament, they went through the Pool phase undefeated after having to qualify for the tournament in China five months ago.
Their semi final in Australia will be against familiar opposition, with the pair facing off in a four-Test series less than one month ago. The Kookaburras earned a clean sweep of that series but the matches were mostly highly competitive encounters.
The opening match on day eight was also surrounded by drama, with Spain becoming the second team from Pool A to qualify for the semi finals with an unconvincing win against Japan.
The match threatened to erupt in controversy in the second half when Spanish coach Maurits Hendriks stormed onto the pitch during play to dispute an attacking penalty corner decision against his team.
Hendriks later apologised for his outburst and also expressed his displeasure with the conduct of his players, who continually complained to the umpires and showed a general lack of discipline throughout.
On the positive side for Spain, a hat trick to WorldHockey Young Player of the Year nominee Santi Freixa was a positive sign that the European champions’ brilliant trio of strikers might be coming into good scoring form ahead Friday’s semi final.
An appearance in the final four at the World Cup is only the third for Spain, with their previous semi finals coming in 1971 in Barcelona and 1998 in Utrecht. On both occasions they reached the final only to fall at the final hurdle.
Their improvement under Hendriks since the last world Cup in 2002 is dramatic, with an 11th place finish in Kuala Lumpur followed by a fourth place at the 2004 Olympic Games, gold at the 2004 Champions Trophy.
In the day’s other matches, England’s victory over South Africa ensured they will contest the playoff for positions 5-8; a good reward for their industrious play.
South Africa were again competitive and just lacked the attacking punch to counter when England pulled two goals clear in the second half.
England will play New Zealand in one match, while the Netherlands and Pakistan meet in the other.
South Africa will play Japan in the first 9-12 classification match on Friday. In the other classification to determine the bottom four places, Argentina will meet India.
The preliminary rounds were brought to a close with Australia’s impressive victory over Pakistan. The Kookaburras were in control throughout and created numerous goal scoring chances in a display that marks them as the team to beat.
Tomorrow is a rest day in the tournament before the semi finals on Friday.
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