Hockey World Cup 2018: Netherlands beats Australia to set up final against Belgium

Netherlands defeated Australia in the first shootout of the 2018 Hockey World Cup, while Belgium thrashed England 6-0 in the other semifinal at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

Robbert Kemperman (14) celebrates with his teammates after the shooutout victory over Australia.   -  AFP

Australia proved why it is considered one of the toughest teams in the sport, taking the fight till the very end but its dreams of becoming the first team to win a hat-trick of World Cup titles were crushed with a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in the shootout to the Netherlands in the semifinal in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. The teams were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation time.

The Dutch would now be looking to join Pakistan as the only team to win four world titles but would have to get past first-time finalist Belgium in the title clash. The Belgians crushed England 6-0 in the other semifinal.

AS IT HAPPENED | Australia 2 (3) vs 3 (3) Netherlands

Twice-defending champion Australia was all but out of the competition before a Robbert Kemperman defensive blunder with 26 seconds to time gave it a lifeline. Australia’s almost easy passage till the semifinals and its untested defence in the tournament almost became its undoing as it trailed all through the game.

The Dutch, avenging its 6-1 humiliation in the final four years back, clearly looked the better-prepared side. It started cautiously, took time to settle down even as Australia threw it all at the opposition in the first five minutes to create a couple of half chances that went astray.

AS IT HAPPENED | England 0 - 6 Belgium

Thereafter, however, the Dutch began creeping up and ahead and got its first shot on goal in the 9th minute, when Glenn Schuurman tapped in the lead.

Australia kept trying to attack in keeping with its style of play but the Dutch defence and goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak stood firm. At the other end, Andrew Charter saved quite a few clear shots at goal but with a defence that had no clue and had not been challenged so far, he could only do so much.

Just as it looked like the Netherlands would cruise to its second straight final, Kemperman — trying to clear Eddie Ockenden’s hit —  saw it deflected and roll through Blaak’s legs into the goal to take the game into a shootout. The teams stayed level over the five shots as well before Daniel Beale was denied by Blaak in the sixth shot.

– Belgium downs England –

Earlier, Belgium overwhelmed England with not just its control of the game but also its brilliance in negating the opponent’s biggest strength – its midfield – for a thumping victory to register its biggest win ever in the competition.

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Alexander Hendrickx (C) celebrates after scoring against England.   -  AFP

 

It was a one-sided affair even though England tried to make the occasional foray into the other half. But two penalty corners – both saved by the rusher on the line – was all that England could manage as it succumbed to its third straight defeat in the semifinals of the World Cup.

Belgium, on the other hand, was aggressive with captain Thomas Briels leading the way in breaking ahead.

The results

Semifinal 1: Belgium 4 (Alexander Hendrickx 2, Tom Boon, Simon Gougnard, Cedric Charlier, Sebastien Dockier) bt England

Semifinal 2: Netherlands 2 (Glenn Schuurman, Seve van Ass) bt Australia 2 (Tim Howard, Eddie Ockenden) in shootouts.

Shootout scores: Netherlands 4 (Jeroen Hertzberger 2, Seve van Ass, Thijs van Dam) bt Austalia 3 (Tom Craig, Jake Whetton, Daniel Beale).