Belgium, Australia through to semifinals


Web Desk

ODISHA: Belgium booked a semifinal spot in style, ending New Zealand’s dreams of a maiden last-four World Cup appearance with a 2-0 win in the second quarterfinal here on Tuesday.

The defending champion stayed in control for most of the game and, despite missing quite a few shots at the goal, never appeared to be struggling. The margin, in fact, could have been much bigger had Belgium not hit wide once too often. At the other end, New Zealand managed just a couple of half-chances that never appeared dangerous.

Belgium got its first shot in the second minute itself but captain Felix Denayer could not connect in front of the goal. Tom Boon hit a backhand wide after a few minutes as the Belgian forwards appeared in a hurry to score but missing their targets as a result. Boon finally put his team ahead, flicking in the first PC in the 11th minute.

Belgium doubled the lead immediately on resumption through a beautiful coordinated move that started with Nicolas de Kerpel putting Simon Gougnard through, who passed it back to Florent van Aubel with a single touch on the run from near the backline and the latter deflecting it in. The Black Sticks tried to fight back but the Belgians clearly had done their homework, and learnt from India’s mistakes against the same opponent two days back.

Just for a moment, it looked like Australia will be served with a shock upset in the World Cup quarterfinals by an enterprising Spanish team.

Spain went up 2-0 in the first half, but in a matter of seven minutes, Australia clicked into gear and turned it around to win 4-3 here at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday to book a place in the semifinals.

The Kookaburras were blunted in the first half by Spain’s well-drilled defensive shape.

The Spanish players were swift to cut down passes and closed down dribbling lanes inside their zone. The Australians were misfiring from the penalty corners, where they have been reliably good this World Cup.

While the Red Sticks saw less of the ball, they were composed when they regained possession and repeatedly targeted Australia’s left, where the two goals came from, to create overloads.

The opening goal started from the right with a surging run from Ignacio Rodriguez which pulled Australian players into the left channel, opening space in the middle. Enrique Gonzalez squared the ball to Xavier Gispert, who turned away from his marker in the circle before emphatically firing a tomahawk into the bottom corner.

Four minutes later, Pepe Cunill played a square ball into the circle, which Lachlan Sharp failed to trap allowing Marc Recasens to flick it past Andrew Charter for the second. Things could have gone further south for the Aussies had Borja Lacalle made his run on time to pass the ball into an empty net.

At the other end, Australia immediately got a lifeline on the stroke of half-time with a goal of its own. Matt Dawson fired in a pass into the circle, where an unmarked Flynn Ogilvie set himself up before striking with pace past Adrian Rafi.

When the hooter for half-time went off, the Australians were rushing off the turf and were the first to be out for the second half.