Australia enter WC semifinals for 12th time on trot, title holders Belgium also in last-four

Bhubaneswar, Jan 24 (PTI) Defending champions Belgium and three-time winners Australia booked semifinal spots in the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup after getting the better of Spain and New Zealand in their respective quarterfinal matches here on Tuesday.

While Australia toiled hard for a 4-3 win over Spain in the first quarterfinal, Belgium did not face much problem in their 2-0 win over India’s conqueror New Zealand in the second last-eight match of the day at the Kalinga Stadium.

With the win over Spain, Australia made their 12th straight semifinals in the World Cup.

Winners of the 1986, 2010 and 2014 editions, Australia have made it to the semifinals of a World Cup on 11 occasions since the 1978 edition in Buenos Aires.

They had lost to the Dutch in the semifinals in a penalty shootout in the last edition here in 2018.

Belgium suffered a jolt just before their quarterfinal match, as their star penalty corner expert Alexander Hendrickx was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament after he twisted his knee in their final Pool B match against Japan on January 20.

Belgium now wait the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal between England and Germany in the semifinals, while title contenders Australia will face the winner of the other last-eight match between the Netherlands and South Korea.

It was a close affair in the Australia vs Spain quarterfinal match but Jeremy Hayward’s two penalty corner strikes in the third quarter made the difference.

Spain captain Marc Miralles committed a costly mistake as he failed to score from a penalty stroke four minutes from the final hooter, when his team was training 3-4. Had he scored, the match would have gone to the shootout.

Hayward struck in the 33rd and 37th minutes while Flynn Ogilvie (30th) and captain Aran Zalewski (32nd) scored field goals for Australia.

Xavier Gispert (20th), Marc Recasens (24th) and Miralles (41st) were the goal scorers for Spain who will head home now.

They had finished a lowly 13th last time.

Spain denied Australia to play their fast-paced one-touch game in the first quarter. Australia, however, dominated as they got three penalty corners in the first 15 minutes but could not convert even once.

Penalty corner specialist Blake Grover took two without any success while Hayward flicked once with the same result as the two sides failed to break the deadlock in the first quarter.

But Spain sprung a surprise in the second quarter, scoring two goals as against one by Australia.

At one point in time, it looked an upset win was on the cards when the European side were leading 2-0 till the final minute of the second quarter.

Spain scored two fine field goals through Gispert and Recasens to go 2-0 up in the 24th minute.

But just a few seconds from the second quarter, Australia pulled one back with Ogilvie finding himself unchallenged in the Spanish striking circle from a Matt Dawson pass.

Ogilvie struck hard and beat the goalkeeper to ease pressure.

If Spain were the better side in the second quarter, Australia were clearly the dominant team in the third as they struck three of the four goals scored in that period.

It was a three-goal burst in a space of five minutes for Australia as Zalewski found the target in the second minute of the third quarter before Hayward struck twice in quick succession in the 33rd and 37th minutes.

From trailing 0-2 just before the end of second quarter, Australia were 4-2 up in the third quarter.

Spain pulled one back four minutes before the end of the third quarter with Miralles scoring from a PC.

The fourth quarter was a closely-fought contest and Spain got a chance to score the equaliser and take the match into the shootout. But Miralles wasted a penalty stroke with Australia goalkeeper Andrew Charter, who was later named player of the match, blocking the shot with his outstretched left leg.

Later, Belgium took some time to settle down in their quarterfinal against New Zealand but once they did that the defending champions took control of the match as they scored a goal each in the first and second quarters.

They held on to the 2-0 first half lead till the end of the match.

Star forward Tom Boon opened the scoring for Belgium in the 11th minute from their first penalty corner.

New Zealand’s defence was caught napping in the first minute of the second quarter.

Simon Gougnard’s cross from the right side of the ‘D’ went past at least two New Zealand defenders and Florent van Aubel was left unmarked to slam home for an easy goal in the 16th minute.

The third and fourth quarters did not yield any goal with Belgium doing most of the attacking while New Zealand defended their citadel well.

The Black Sticks also mounted a few spirited challenges in the fourth quarter with some fine attacking moves but their last touch or deflection did not come.

Source: PTI News


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