- Ciriello scores after hooter to give Kookaburras victory over Red Lions in FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final
- Barry Middleton celebrates 350th cap with a goal as GB secure third place ahead of India
- Ireland’s Green Machine take fifth place to boost their Olympic hopes
- Australia, Belgium, Great Britain & India qualify for the Hockey World League Final
FINTRO Best Player Award: John-John Dohmen (BEL)
HERO Best Young Player Award: Blake Govers (AUS)
FINTRO Best Goalkeeper Award: David Harte (IRL)
HERO Top Scorer: Blake Govers (AUS) – 7 goals
A dramatic late goal from Chris Ciriello gave Kookaburras, the Men’s Hockey team of Australia a 1-0 win over host nation Belgium to secure a first place finish at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Antwerp. Ciriello – who scored a hat-trick in the final of last year’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup – struck with a blistering overtime penalty corner drag-flick to give the Kookaburras a hard-earned win in a fantastic and hugely competitive match with the Red Lions.
Despite the defeat, it was a memorable day for Belgian captain John-John Dohmen, who played his 300th game for his country and was also named FINTRO Best Player. Kookaburras Blake Govers, who celebrates his 19th birthday on Monday, was named as the HERO Best Young Player and also took the HERO Top Scorer Award with seven tournament goals. Ireland’s David Harte was named FINTRO Best Goalkeeper.
In the 3-4 play-off match, team captain Barry Middleton celebrated his 350th international appearance with a goal as Great Britain powered to a convincing 5-1 win over India to claim third place.
Australia, Belgium and Great Britain all achieved qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the event in Antwerp, with fourth placed India having already booked their Olympic ticket last year thanks to their triumph at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea.
Earlier in the day, Ireland’s Green Machine increased their chances of becoming the first Irish team, in any sport, to qualify for the Olympics since 1948 by claiming a fifth place finish with victory over Malaysia. Ireland will have to wait until the completion of this year’s Continental Championships before they find out if they have done enough to earn their ticket to Rio. In the 7-8 play-off match, goals from Simon Brisac-Martin and Hugo Genestet helped France to a 2-1 victory against Pakistan.
In the grand finale: Spurred on by a full house crowd, Belgium held out the World Champions for almost the full 60 minutes in Antwerp with the match coming within two seconds of going to a shoot-out. Having withstood the hosts’ early pressure, the Kookaburras were well in control of proceedings throughout the second half but it took a flowing late counter attack as the clock ticked down to help seal the outcome.
Bursting out of a deep midfield position, Simon Orchard found Blake Govers inside the Belgian half. A first time pass from Govers found Daniel Beale and the Queenslander found the foot of a Belgium defender inside the circle. And it was Beale whose penalty corner injection was trapped perfectly at the top of the circle by Orchard for Ciriello to flick inside the left post and win the match.
While Ciriello’s goal won the tie, the goalkeepers were amongst the heroes of the day with all three – Kookaburras pair Andrew Charter and Tyler Lovell, playing in his 50th match, and Belgium’s Vincent Vanasch – pulling off a strong of top saves.
Vanasch’s stunning reflex dive low to his right to deny Kookaburras Kiel Brown late in the third period was the pick of several stops that also included a full length dive to deny Eddie Ockenden and a strong save from Blake Govers’ late penalty corner.
At the other end, Andrew Charter’s double denial of Belgium at the game’s first penalty corner was crucial as the Kookaburras found their feet in the match. And Tyler Lovell’s glove save to thwart a late Belgian counter attack came at just the right time.
Ciriello was already public enemy number one with the partisan home fans after a verbal altercation with Tanguy Cosyns in the second quarter that saw both players sin binned. The Victorian was subsequently booed every time he touched the ball but ultimately silenced his critics with the late strike.
It is the fourth time in little over a year that Ciriello’s goals have been crucial for Kookaburras in a major final after his hat-tricks in the Grand Finals of the World Cup and Commonwealth Games, and four goals in the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final.