- Australia and Belgium will contest final of FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final
- Pakistan fail to qualify for Olympics for first time in their history
- Great Britain play India in third place contest, but all four semi-finalists have Olympic qualification spots
A hat-trick for Florent van Aubel saw the hosts Belgium ease their way into the men’s final of the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals at the expense of India. The host nation will play Australia, who defeated Great Britain 3-1 in the second semi-final match.
Belgium overcame the defensive frailties shown against France in the quarter-finals to punish an India team that was lacking finishing or clear structure. Three goals for Van Aubel and one for Tanguy Cosyns was enough to secure the victory.
Australia and Great Britain played out an entertaining semi-final in the last match of the day, but it was the deadly finishing and patience when chasing possession displayed by the world number one team that secured the victory. Goals came from Blake Govers, Daniel Beale and Jacob Whetton, with Great Britain’s consolation goal scored by Nick Catlin.
Earlier in the day, Ireland defeated Pakistan by a tight 1-0 margin. The result means Pakistan have failed to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time in their history. In the second 5-8th place game, Malaysia’s captain Razie Rahim scored a brace as his team secured a 4-1 win over France, setting up a fifth place contest with Ireland.
In the first semi-final between India and Belgium, The first quarter started with high intense battle and speedy attacks on both sides. Players from both teams for early lead and tied to out-foxed each-others defenders. It was the hosts Belgium who got the early success when they sneaked into India’s circle from right side and Florent van Aubel scored a brilliant goal through his reverse shot, beating Indian custodian PR Sreejesh, in the 2nd minute. Belgians surprised attacked earned them 1-0 lead over India and both the teams again fought harder to score goals. Indians made few advances and managed to create some close chances to score goals but faced a steady Belgian defence. In the 8th minute, Belgium earned a penalty corner and Sreejesh saved the first shot perfectly, but the ball rebounded and Tanguy Cosyns hit the ball harder into the nets for their second goal. Conceding two quick goals, Indians started playing with more aggression and continuously attacked on their opponent’s side. After a fast-paced game, the first quarter finished at 2-0 in favour of Belgium.
In the 2nd quarter, India stepped on the ground with more passion and zeal to open their account. Indians attacked from all sides and managed to keep the ball in the Belgian half. Young forward player Satbir Singh led the attack, who challenged opponent’s defenders many times. Along with Satbir, skipper Sardar Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Dharamvir Singh and Manpreet Singh attacked from the right side and put pressure on Belgians. On the other side, Belgium players restricted Indian penetrations with their defensive game-plan and maintained the score-card 2-0 till the end of second quarter.
In the third quarter of the match, both teams continued their struggle to score goals and tried to create maximum opportunities. After series of attacks, India earned a penalty corner but failed to convert into goal. Belgium counter-attacked with quick speed and earned a penalty corner in the 41st minute. Indian defenders managed to save the first shot but ball rebounded towards the injector van Aubel, who sent the ball in the goal-box within fraction of a second. With van Aubel’s second goal, Belgium led the score-line by 3-0. Indians charged back and earned another penalty corner after few minutes. However, they failed to materialise the opportunity and the quarter finished at 3-0 in favour of Belgium.
In the fourth quarter, Indians came with better game-plans and tried to create opportunities to reduce the margin. Indians kept on attacking on their opponent’s half and same time they were restricting Belgian attacks. In the 53rd minute, Belgium earned another penalty corner. This time again, Sreejesh saved the first shot and he moved forward to clear the ball. But Belgian players dribbled him past him and van Aubel deflected the ball into the goal-box for his hat-trick goal. Trailing by four goals, Indians didn’t give up and they maintained their attacking tactics. However, India could not breach the Belgian defence and eventually they lost the match by 0-4.
The final day of the men’s competition takes place on Sunday 5th July. As well as the big matches of the day, the 5-6 play-off between Malaysia and Ireland will also be fiercely contested as a fifth place finish would provide an increased chance of qualifying for Rio following the completion of the Continental Championships.
Australia, Belgium, Great Britain and India went into today’s semi-finals knowing that they had already qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This was because India, who qualified for the 2016 Olympics as the Asian Continental champions, reached the semi-final stage of the competition in Antwerp.
Following today’s results, the highest India can finish is third. If they do, this will open an Olympic berth for the highest ranked of the fourth place finishers from the two HWL Semi-Final events in Buenos Aires and Antwerp. Canada finished fourth in Argentina, but Great Britain sit higher in the world rankings and will therefore qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics as well.
India will play the 3rd / 4th match on 5th July 2015 at 19:00 pm (IST) in the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final 2015. This will be followed by grand finale between Australia and Belgium at 2130 IST. The matches will be telecasted LIVE on Star Sports.