Friday, April 19, 2024

Hockey World Cup: Australia scrape past Spain

Bhubaneswar — When Australia missed a rebound chance with their opening PC from three yards out, one sensed that there was going to be yet more subplots to an increasingly wide open World Cup. Thirty minutes later, Jeremy Hayward was bum-slapping his coach, high-fiving his team-mates and a rampant Australian side were on their merry way.

Yet this was anything but a routine stroll for a side that eventually staked a semi-final berth for the 12th successive World Cup with a 4-3 win. That it didn’t go to the shoot-out lottery – barring South Korea’s ruthless display – was down to 35-year-old Andrew Charter’s left glove save from a nervy penalty stroke with four minutes left, denying Spain one last shot.

This was a match which sparked for 45 minutes after a scoreless opening. Xavier Gispert finished a fine right-sided move with a tomahawk passed Charter. Four minutes later, Australia were caught again, another square ball to Lachlan Sharp and Spain had doubled the lead. 

Moments later Spain had a golden chance to make it three, Borja Lacalle tangled in decision after a ball across goal and failed to find any connection. Three up for Spain? We know better against this Australian side. So instead with seconds to go in the half, Flynn Ogilvie was handed a free shot unmarked and time aplenty to carve an expansive forehand.

This was now about whether Spain could weather every Kookaburra storm with the predicted tide of attacks coming their way – and perhaps counter themselves.

Moments after the restart, Australia took the game away from Spain. First, Arun Zalewski levelled, then the Australian PCs finally whirred into action when Jeremy Hayward scored two in four minutes after a lengthy video referral for a Spanish foot.

Spain rallied after a disallowed Australia scooped goal when Marc Miralles notched a crisp corner hit into the backboard. Four goals in nine third quarter minutes.

Zalewski was still a livewire in any Kookaburra counter, while Spain were jumping and waving hands for any sign of an Australian foot in their counter moves upfield.

BHUBANESWAR, INDIA- JANUARY 24 FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 29 Australia v Spain (QF) Australia wins with 4-3 from Spain. Jordi Bonastre (Photo by WorldSportPics/Frank Uijlenbroek)

Then, with four minutes left, Spain were awarded a penalty stroke – Australia down to 11 with a late green – after an errant Australian stick. Charter stuck out a left glove. Camped in the Spain 23, Australia ran down crucial seconds. They became the first semi-finalists, but this was a close run thing.

Later, Belgium joined Australia with one of the most comfortable matches in the last 48 hours of a thoroughly entertaining set of matches. A 2-0 win saw them through to face either the Netherlands or South Korea.

Tom Boon and Florent van Aubel settled this contest in the first-half, coupled with a tight defensive display.

Total Hockey

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