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Australia have taken the initiative and sit on the verge of semi final qualification after a sparkling day four at the Samsung Hockey World Cup in Madrid.
The level of play and excitement of the matches lifted a notch today and after three completed rounds in Pool B, Australia sits on top of the table following a one-goal win over Korea.
The rest of the table is less certain, with Argentina hanging onto the second semi final qualification place, three points ahead of Korea.
The match between Australia and Korea was one of the most entertaining of the tournament with the Hockeyroos discovering some ruthless attacking form in the first half with three goals in six minutes.
After a six-goal first half, the scoring dried up (except for Korea’s late penalty corner) in the second half but the attacking mindset of both teams did not, with play rebounding from one end to the other at a frantic pace.
At the end of the match, Australia had done enough hold on and move two points clear of the Pool B challengers (after Argentina’s slip against South Africa) and into perfect position to book a semi final berth as early as Monday, when they play Japan.
Despite a lack of goals, the fluency of play continued in the second match between USA and Japan in result that left both teams feeling as if they had done enough to win the contest.
There were opportunities for both USA and Japan throughout, but unlike the earlier match, the goals did not flow.
The result creates a tight points table with the bottom three places all separated by one point. While the semi finals now appear unlikely for this trio, a place in the 5-8 classification matches is what will drive each in their remaining two matches to finish the preliminary rounds.
The late match was another excellent encounter, with South Africa matching and often outsmarting Argentina before finally conceding a late equaliser to share the points.
The South African defence was superb, and supported by an efficient penalty corner battery, looked set to cause the upset of the tournament before Argentina rallied to score three minutes before full time.
Argentina lacked creativity in attack and struggled under with the heavily-stacked South African defence. If not for a late surge – and an easy miss from South Africa at the other end – they would have tumbled to a shock defeat.
The result was also bonus for Korea because an Argentina victory would have dropped them five points out of semi final contention. As it stands now however, Korea is just three points behind the Pan American champions ahead of their clash on Monday.
Pool A resumes tomorrow with the Netherlands meeting Spain in a match that will decide top spot in the Pool. The other matches will be between India and England, and Germany and China.
England have received some good news with captain Kate Walsh a chance to make a return to the pitch later in the tournament. The 26-year-old was taken to hospital yesterday after suffering a blow to her knee and it was thought she would miss the remainder of the World Cup.
However her injury is not as sever as first thought and the England team will monitor her progress in the coming days.
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