[img_assist|nid=8244|title=Rabobank World League semi final|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=125|height=125]It all got a bit closer for the top four teams as Australia narrowly pipped The Netherlands 4-3 and Belgium squeezed out a 3-2 win over the Blacksticks. These results mean that Australia, Belgium and The Netherlands (as hosts) all qualify for the 2014 world cup in The Hague. India dominated France in a physical affair which ended 6-2, putting them in the 4th/5th play-off versus Spain. Ireland were heartbroken when 15minutes from time Roger Padros scored the only goal of the game for Spain and relegate them to play France for the wooden spoon.
Australia – Netherlands 4-3 (2-1)
Australia won a battle of corners to see off Rotterdam hosts the Netherlands 4-3 to reach the final of the World League and guarantee their ticket to the 2014 World Cup into the bargain.
It was a thriller throughout with the Aussies never able to get fully free of a Dutch side that kept fighting their way back into the tie. Christopher Ciriello’s second minute drag-flick initially saw a penalty stroke awarded but it was ruled out on referral.
But the set piece expert did not have long to wait until he opened the scoring, dragging home a low bullet past Jaap Stockmann’s stick side. Jeroen Hertzberger levelled with a flick of his own after Jelle Galema’s good work won the corner.
Matt Gohdes, though, gave Australia the half-time lead with a superb effort, ghosting down the right baseline, flipping the ball onto his reverse before sliding the ball under the goalkeeper.
The second equaliser owed more to brute force than finesse as Billy Bakker roofed a brilliantly powerful backhand shot. From 2-2, the game reverted back to a corner shoot-out as Russell Ford got a touch to Kieran Govers low flick to restore his side’s lead for a third time.
Crucially, Govers’ heavily deflected flick with 14 minutes left put Australia two ahead for the first time and while Rogier Hofman did get one back from the injector spot, the Dutch could not find another goal.
Belgium – New Zealand 3-2 (2-1)
Tom Boon’s double helped Belgium claim the first place in the final of the World League semi-final in Rotterdam as they held off New Zealand, copper-fastening their 2014 World Cup spot in the process.
Thomas Briels’ delightful little touch in front of Devon Manchester opened the scoring early on as he met a bouncing ball just before the goalkeeper closed in, lifting it up and over him before nestling in the net.
That lead lasted until the 18th minute when Alex Shaw’s powerful ball into the circle was redirected in by Blair Hilton, getting a faint touch whilst in the process of falling and leaving Vincent Vanasch with little time to react.
But Belgium made their move in the second third as Tom Boon rocketed home a high and straight drag flick over Manchester’s head before half-time. He added the third when others dallied in the circle, taking control with a clean strike in the 38th minute. Boon almost had a hat trick with a neat touch behind his back which Manchester did well to block as the Belgians looked well set.
The Blacksticks responded, though, and they were right back in the mix when Andy Hayward fired a low shot to the backboard from a penalty corner. And the same man almost had the equaliser with three minutes to go only for Vanasch to stick out a big toe to keep Belgium just in front.
India – France 6-2 (3-1)
India eased through to Sunday’s fifth place playoff after they ease past the challenge of France despite an initial concession just three minutes into the game.
The skills of Dharamvir Singh and SV Sunil proved vital as they bounced back in style to counteract Hugo Genestet’s initial reverse-stick strike that had put France in front.
Akashdeep Singh’s sharp finish equalised before VR Raghunath made it 2-1 with his third drag-flick of the competition. Sunil then put two goals in the difference by half-time when he raced onto a through ball and finished delightfully.
Three more goals followed in the second half as Dharamvir set up both Sardar Singh and Mandeep Singh to tip in for 5-1 and the latter made it a half dozen from Sunil’s assist.
Guillaume Deront got a consolation on the final whistle after a series of corners but it was too late to see France avoid a date with Ireland for seventh place.
Ireland – Spain 0-1 (half-time: 0-0)
Roger Padros’ goal 15 minutes from the end means Spain are still in the hunt for fifth place after they shaded a tight tussle with Ireland. There was very little between the sides throughout with chances at a premium while both goalkeepers made key interventions.
Quico Cortes initially used his shoulder to excellent effect to deny Alan Sothern before David Harte pulled off a string of stops, mainly from Alex Casasayas, to keep the scoreboard blank at half-time.
The second half opened up a little more with Bosco Perez-Pla saving Conor Harte’s flick off the line while Cortes also blocked Mikey Watt’s rasping reverse.
Spain, though, got the all-important goal after a bout of pinball in the circle bounced invitingly to Padros – with strong suggestions of a foot in the build-up – who thumped it through David Harte’s defences.
Ireland replied but could not take a last second corner chance while Shane O’Donoghue also missed out from close range to see Spain through to the fifth place game while Ireland contest seventh on Saturday evening.