HWL: Netherlands, Australia move to the semis

Netherlands became the first semi-finalists of the Hockey World League Final with a clinical 2-0 win over Canada in the quarter-final in Raipur.

Roel Bovendeert of Netherlands scored the second of two goals in the 56th minute against Canada.   -  Getty Images

Netherlands were always expected to have it easy against Canada. Unbeaten so far in the Hockey World League Finals here, the European champions did not struggle in their quarter-final match, winning 2-0 here on Wednesday to become the first semi-finalist of the competition.

Playing with far lesser intensity than they are capable of, the world’s second ranked side hardly pushed hard. They were content keeping possession and experimenting with their players, formations and variations. The first shot at goal was taken only in the 12th minute. Canada, expected to stay defensive and try to get a shot in on counter-attacks, instead went all out to get a goal with speedy runs down both flanks. However, most of their attempts fizzled out outside the circle as the Dutch defence parried them away.

On the other hand, the Dutch forward line kept entering the Canadian circle but failed to put one through. Canadian goalkeeper Antoni Kindler brought off some good saves. Canada were also unlucky in the 25th minute when a powerful shot by Gabriel Ho-Garcia from the top of the circle struck Matthew Guest hard on his chin before rolling past the goal-line.

In reply, Netherlands ran away with the ball and in the ensuing melee, Constantijn Jonker was put through by Valentin Verga for the opener. A 1-0 lead at half time was surprising given the Dutch dominance but then, they had not really been trying to go on a goalfest.

Post break, the pattern continued. To be fair, Canada did try their best to get the equaliser and did not allow Netherlands to run away with the game. Their defence marshalled by captain Scott Tupper stood up to the attack and thwarted two penalty corners. The attack, led by Man of the Match Mark Pearson, tried to look for gaps in the Dutch defence but except for one half-chance in the 46th minute, there was not much they could do.

Australia humble Germany

There is a reason the league matches of the Hockey World League Finals here were considered warm-up games by all the teams. And Australia made it amply clear, defeating Germany 4-1 in the quarterfinals to set up a clash in the last four with Netherlands.

Through the three games so far, the world champion had appeared lethargic, off target and disjointed. In the battle against the double Olympic champion, the real Australia came to play and the result was an exciting clash between two teams that have quite a history between them, specially on the big stage.

Germany, on the other hand, would rue their bad defence as much as their off target attack for the loss. They wasted penalty corners and a stroke (Oscar Deeke in the 22nd minute), sent balls flying wide, left Aussie strikers unmarked and allowed easy goals to slip through gaps. Nothing they did appeared to go right. With no win against their name in the competition, the occasional bursts of brilliance, specially from captain Moritz Fuerste in the midfield, who played deeper than usual, were not enough to stop an in-form Australia.

The Australians kept opening up space, switched flanks at will and changed their playing style constantly, keeping the Germans struggling on their feet. Germany was the first to step on the gas but Florian Fuchs reverse hit wide and his paid the price.

Hayward puts the Aussies ahead

On the counter, Australia earned a penalty corner and Jeremy Hayward made no mistake to put it ahead. A minute later, Matthew Swann shot in and Jamie Dwyer deflected in to double. The statistics showed that German goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi had 0.3 seconds to react, clearly not enough to stop Dwyer.

Christopher Ruhr finally pulled one back for Germany in the 40th minute after being put through by Constantin Staib but it only served to rile up the Aussies who went all out on the attack thereafter. Germany kept committing errors and the final straw was Glenn Turner's shot that rolled in for Australia's fourth goal at the stroke of time.

The result (quarterfinal): Netherlands 2 (Constantijn Jonker, Roel Bovendeert) beat Canada 0; Australia 4 (Jeremy Hayward, Jamie Dwyer, Matthew Dawson, Glenn Turner) beat Germany 1 (Christopher Ruhr)