Birmingham — A “gutted” Zach Wallace, England men’s captain, said his side fell short of the “complete performance” to beat world No 1 Australia as their search for a first ever Commonwealth Games final continued after a rampaging 3-2 defeat to the Kookaburras.
England struck a 2-0 lead in the first-half with some physical, front-foot hockey before Australia found a way to claw themselves back into the semi-final and keep up their record of reaching every Commonwealth final since the inaugural 1998 Games.
“You play the Aussies and they come out hard and look to throw punches, look to knock you down and kill the game,” said Wallace. “That was the game plan, to throw our punches back and we started hard and fast and got them running the other way.
“We really back ourselves and have so much confidence in this group. We took it to them individually, and I back ourselves to do it, and it’s winning that mental battle at the start which I think we did well.”
However, England rued several yellow and green cards while a previously unsettled Australia managed to take control and inch their way back into the game.
Wallace, in his first major Games as captain, added: “You have to have the complete performance to get over the line. As a young side maybe inexperience told and we gave away a few cards. We held it out very well and that shows where we are, with the togetherness, fight and the spirit and maybe it told over the 60 minutes. I am absolutely gutted.”
Asked for his verdict on the third goal, which paved the way for Australia’s victory and scored by Daniel Beale after a free hit, Wallace said: “The message we had at the start of the tournament was that the ball had to be stopped and they didn’t make an attempt to stop it. The video ref gave what he gave.”
Colin Batch, the Australia coach, admitted that the Kookaburras were on the back foot in this frenetic opening and provided a stern test.
“They got a lot of confidence from that situation,” said Batch of England’s first quarter.
“It was a huge challenge just to get up to our level and it took a long time to get there.
“I’m not sure we were rattled, but certainly we were doing uncharacteristic things. We weren’t as calm, we took a long time to settle into the game. It was an exceptional semifinal.”
Sam Ward said: “Tough one to take, obviously. I’ll put it a blunt way – I’m f***ing proud of the boys right now. It’s been an unbelievable effort. We were 2-0 up against one of the best sides in the world, and obviously a few cards didn’t help us, but hell, we did well.”
England now play South Africa for bronze. Australia take on India for gold on Monday.