Australia reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the 12th time in a row, title holders Belgium also in the last-four Pipa News

Australia reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the 12th time in a row, title holders Belgium also in the last-four

Defending champions Belgium and three-time winners Australia booked their places in the semi-finals of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup after defeating Spain and New Zealand in their respective quarter-final matches, here on Tuesday.

Australia fought hard for a 4-3 win over Spain in the first quarter-final, while Belgium did not face much trouble in India’s 2-0 win over defending champions New Zealand in the day’s second last-eight match at the Kalinga Stadium .

With the win over Spain, Australia made their 12th straight World Cup semi-final appearance.

Winners of the 1986, 2010 and 2014 editions, Australia have made the semi-finals of the World Cup 11 times since the 1978 edition in Buenos Aires. They had lost to the Dutch in the semi-finals in the penalty shootout in the last edition here in 2018.

Belgium suffered a blow just ahead of their quarter-final match as their star penalty corner specialist Alexander Hendrickx was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament after injuring his knee in their final Pool B match against Japan on 20 January Was.

Belgium will now await the winner of Wednesday’s quarter-final between England and Germany in the semi-finals, while title contenders Australia will face the winner of the last-eight match between the Netherlands and South Korea.

It was a close affair in the Australia v Spain quarter-final match but two penalty corner strikes from Jeremy Hayward in the third quarter made the difference.

Spain captain Marc Miralles made a costly mistake as he failed to score from a penalty stroke four minutes after the final hooter with his team trailing 3-4. Had he scored, the match would have gone to a shootout.

Hayward scored in the 33rd and 37th minutes, while Flynn Ogilvie (30th) and captain Eran Zalewski (32nd) scored for Australia.

Javier Gispert (20th), Marc Ricksens (24th) and Miralles (41st) scored for Spain, who will now return home. Last time he was at 13th position.

Spain denied Australia playing their fast-paced one-touch game in the first quarter. Australia though earned three penalty corners in the first 15 minutes but could not score a single one.

Penalty corner specialist Blake Grover shot two to no avail while Hayward flicked one with the same result as the sides failed to break the deadlock in the first quarter.

But Spain surprised Australia by scoring two goals in the second quarter.

At one stage, it looked as though an upset victory was on the way for Europe when they were leading 2–0 until the last minute of the second quarter.

Spain scored two fine field goals in the 24th minute through Gispert and Rekassens to take a 2–0 lead.

But just seconds before the second quarter Australia mounted a comeback and Ogilvie found himself unchallenged by Matt Dawson’s pass into the Spanish striking circle.

Ogilvie hit hard and beat the goalkeeper to relieve the pressure.

If Spain were the better side in the second quarter, Australia were clearly the dominant team in the third as they scored three of the four goals scored in that period.

It was a three-goal burst in the space of five minutes for Australia as Zalewski found the target in the second minute of the third quarter, before Hayward scored twice in quick succession in the 33rd and 37th minutes.

Trailing 0–2 just before the end of the second quarter, Australia led 4–2 in the third quarter.

Four minutes before the end of the third quarter, Spain pulled one back with Miralles scoring from a penalty.

The fourth quarter was a close contest and Spain had a chance to score the equalizer and take the match to a shootout.

But Miralles wasted a penalty stroke with Australia goalkeeper Andrew Charter, later named man of the match, blocking the shot by extending his left leg.

Afterwards, Belgium took some time to settle in their quarter-final against New Zealand but once they did the defending champions took control of the match as they scored one goal each in the first and second quarters.

They maintained a 2–0 lead in the first half until the end of the match.

Star forward Tom Boon opened the scoring for Belgium in the 11th minute from a penalty corner.

The New Zealand defense was caught napping in the first minute of the second quarter.

Simon Gougnard’s cross from the right of the ‘D’ went past at least two New Zealand defenders and Florent van Aubel was left to slot home an easy goal in the 16th minute.

The third and fourth quarters saw no goals, with Belgium mostly attacking while New Zealand defended their defenses well.

The Black Sticks made some spirited challenges in the fourth quarter with some good offensive moves but their final touches or deflections did not come.

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