FIH Hockey WC: Delicious semi-affairs on cards
After two weeks of intense competition, the cream has risen to the top. Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, the top four ranked teams in the world, will close two mouth-watering FIH Hockey World Cup semi-finals here on Friday that will appeal not only to the purists, but even the casual followers of the sport.
Three-time winner Australia, for whom India has always been a happy hunting ground after victorious at the 2010 World Cup and Commonwealth Games, will kick off the semi-final against a peaking Germany, while free-scoring Netherlands will take revenge on defending champions Belgium in the night-time clash in the Kalinga Stadium.
There is very little that separates Australia and Germany, two of the sport’s heavyweights that have consistently competed for top honors over the past four decades. In the 45 times the two have clashed, Australia won 20, while Germany was only one win ahead. However, Australia has beaten the Die Honamas on the last three occasions, including the semi-finals of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Australia were in great form this World Cup too, playing their usual blistering hockey and scoring goals left, right and They have scored 24 goals, but unlike the Kookaburras of the past, they looked poor defensively, conceding a whopping eight goals. Argentina held them 3-3 while Spain almost threatened a shocker after leading 2-0 in the quarter-finals.
It is this crack in the armor that Germany, fresh from a stunning come-from-behind quarter-final victory over England, will aim to target. The two-time champions stared at the exit door less than four minutes to go against England after trailing 2-0, but the Germans showed the incredible mental strength they possess by scoring twice in the space of 40 seconds before taking the shootouts to a ended well. of the greatest robberies in modern hockey.
It was a game that, for a vast majority, Germany seemed totally off-color. But great teams have an innate ability to steal a win even when they’re not at their best and that’s what they did to everyone’s surprise. Germany, now with its tail up, will bring its usual zeal and discipline, and Australia will simply have no room for error.
The other semi-final is a repeat of the 2018 final, with the Netherlands trying to end Belgium’s dominance of the world. The Red Lions, who until the beginning of the millennium played second fiddle to the Netherlands and Germany, ushered in a hockey revolution and are now holders of Olympic gold and world title. They came here with a somewhat older crew, but the Golden Generation has shown that the fire inside still burns brightly.
They’ve played grating hockey; their strides, movement and vision all a work of art. They attack en masse, but as soon as they lose the ball, they also defend en masse. Literally every player knows exactly where their teammate is or is going to run, and the spaces they create or find are magical. Their game management is on a whole other level.
That said, if there’s a team that can hold off Belgium, it’s the Dutch. They have scored 27 goals by a side so far this event, conceding only one, although the quality of the opposition has been lackluster. After two consecutive final defeats in the World Cup, the last of which was against Belgium, they were on the right track from the start. Well supported by their family and friends in the stands, Orange hopes to paint the city orange.
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