Hockey World Cup 2018: England stuns Argentina 3-2, enters semifinals

While England came from one goal down to defeat 2016 Olympic champion Argentina, World No.1 Australia routed France 3-0 to enter the last four of the Hockey World Cup 2018.

The England team celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Argentina at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Since the high of the Rio triumph, Argentina men’s hockey team has been struggling to reclaim the form that helped it win the 2016 Olympics gold.

The first warning came when it lost to minnow France in the pool stage in Bhubaneswar, and the struggles continued on Wednesday as England dumped it from the competition with a 3-2 win.

As it Happened

Perhaps taking tips from France’s upset win against Argentina, England, which reached its fourth World Cup semifinal, played an attacking game to disrupt Argentina’s defensive structure while keeping its own defences tight enough.

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Barry Middleton, at 34 playing his fourth World Cup, was the heart of the English team. Marshalling the midfield and running down the flanks to spread the Argentine defence thin, Middleton worked hard to keep pushing the ball ahead. It was a midfield battle for the first 10 minutes and ended with a penalty corner to England that went waste.

He finally got on to the scoresheet after Liam Ansell did all the hard work running around the entire circle to draw away the defence and put Middleton through, who shot on the move to level scores after Gonzalo Peillat had put the South Americans ahead.

England players take a group selfie after booking a spot in the semifinals.   -  AFP


That forced Argentina to step up its own pace, but it only ended up playing into England’s plans. England kept pushing ahead from either side but was thwarted by Juan Vivaldi more than once.

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Knowing its biggest weapon was Peillat, Argentina kept seeking penalty corners, earning six of them in the process. But George Pinner as up to the task and although Peillat managed to convert two of them, it wasn’t enough against the wily and sharp English.

Later, title favourite Australia cruised into the last four with a clinical 3-0 win against France. It wasn’t the scoreline one expected, but Australia was content converting three penalty corners without exerting itself too much.

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To its credit, France did show some spark with the occasional foray into the other’s circle, earning a couple of penalty corners and defending with desperation, but against the world No. 1, it needed a lot more.

Results (quarterfinals): England 3 (Barry Middleton, Will Calnan, Harry Martin) bt Argentina 2 (Gonzalo Peillat); Australia 3 (Jeremy Hayward, Blake Govers, Aran Zalewski) bt France 0.
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