Friday, April 19, 2024

Hockey World Cup: Australia lead top four in world in semi-final blockbusters

Bhubaneswar — They needed a late equaliser against Argentina in the pool stages and fought back deliciously to thwart Spain in the last eight. Despite these difficult moments, would anyone expect anything less than Australia lining up to compete for a place in their fifth final in six World Cups?

World No 1 Australia face Germany, ranked fourth, while the teams sitting in between in the rankings, Belgium and the Netherlands, also face off on Friday.

The Germans didn’t train on Thursday, perhaps aware how much the effort to overcome England took out of them. For Australia, will be their usual rampant selves if the match dictates that.

The Kookaburras last lost to Germany in 2014 – a run of eight matches – and Germany will be hoping to strike early given Australia’s slow starts here.

“We do prepare to play and start well, it hasn’t happened so far, but that’s just the way it goes,” their coach Colin Batch said.

Jake Harvie, who played in 2018 when Australia lost to the Dutch, said: “It will be a grind and we have to show up and hustle for 60 minutes.

“There have been some big shootouts. There have been pretty intense crossovers and knock games.

“We are always confident that no matter whichever position we are in, we can fight our way back if we have to. There is always a massive belief.”

Harvie, omitted from the Tokyo Olympics squad, admitted that he was relishing playing alongside Andrew Charter, Australia’s 35-year-old keeper, after his late penalty stroke save against Spain.

He added: “He is amazing and I’m fortunate to be able to play alongside someone who has spent an immense amount of hours on his craft as a hockey player and athlete.”

The second semi-final will see the Dutch – with 27 goals so far at this World Cup – take on the defending champions Belgium.

The teams are locked at 2-2 in wins apiece in normal time since 2019 and this encounter could be a real firecracker, with the Duch expected to line up in man to man marking. Belgium are without Alexander Hendrickx, whose tournament ended before the last eight.

Belgium will play in white, just as they have done throughout this World Cup campaign, in the pool stages and in the comfortable win over New Zealand in the last eight.

“I don’t really know why we always play in white. During the last Olympic Games, we wore our red jersey only once”, Victor Wegnez told reporters.

“We will soon be called the White Lions but it’s beautiful white, it looks good on the blue of the field.”

Total Hockey

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