New Delhi: An unheralded French side on Friday set up a historic summit clash against defending champions Germany in the Hero Junior Men's Hockey World Cup to be played at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Sunday.
France scripted history by booking their berth in the summit clash of the World Cup for the first time, defeating Malaysia via penalty shoot-out in the first semi-final of the quadrennial event.
France, who never went past the pool stages since the introduction of the event in 1979, showed tremendous fighting spirit and came from a goal down to beat Malaysia 3-1 in the shoot-out after both the teams were locked at 1-1 at the end of regulation 70 minutes.
It was a red letter day for French hockey as till date their best performance in the tournament was a seventh place finish at home in the introductory edition of the event in 1979.
But it won't be easy for the French as in Germany a mighty opponent awaits them in the final, and come Sunday the Germans would fancy a record sixth world title.
Holders Germany rode on two penalty corner conversions from Lukas Windfeder (4th minute, 14th) and field goals from Christopher Ruhr (47th), Timur Oruz (66th) and Niklas Wellen to beat last edition's silver medallist Netherlands 5-3 in the thrilling second semifinal.
But accolades must also go to the Dutch as they came from three goals down to level the scores in the final 10 minutes. For Netherlands, Tom Hiebendaal (49th, 60th) scored from two penalty strokes, while the other came via field effort from Tierry Brinkman's stick.
Netherlands will lock horns against Malaysia in the bronze medal match on Sunday.
Play was intense, with plenty of action, but no more goals were scored and the Asian Champions went into the break with a very narrow one-goal lead. After the change of ends, Hafizuddin Othman in Malaysian goal denied France their third penalty-corner.
But France, who stunned European champions Belgium in the quarterfinals, were in no mood to give up without a fight and were finally rewarded of their persistence in the 63rd minute when Jean-Laurent Kieffer got a slight touch of deflect ball to send the large group of French fans into raptures.
In the shoot-out, France scored twice from one-on-one position while the Malaysian could find the back of the net just once. France will now face the winner of the second semifinal between defending champions Germany and The Netherlands in the summit clash on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, Malaysia were quick to get off the blocks and surprised the French defence as early as in the fourth minute through a field goal from an unmarked Azri Hassan, who had plenty of time to beat Edgar Reynaud in France goal.
France had trouble finding their rhythm, but progressively pushed forward. Simon Martin Brisac had a chance in the 20th minute after working hard on the back-line but was left with no angle and his shot went in the side net.
After hitting the post from their first penalty-corner, the French had most of the ball possession but could not penetrate the Malaysian defence.
France once again struck the post from their second penalty-corner.
Play was intense, with plenty of actions, but no more goals were scored and the Asian Champions went into the break with a very narrow one-goal lead.
After the change of ends, Hafizuddin Othman in Malaysian goal denied France from their third penalty-corner.
But France, who stunned European champions Belgium in the quarterfinals, were in no mood to give up and were finally rewarded of their persistence in the 63rd minute when Jean-Laurent Kieffer got a slight touch to deflect the ball inside the net, sending their supporters into raptures.
In the shoot-out, France scored twice from one-on-one position while the Malaysians could find the back of the net just once.
Meanwhile in the fifth-eighth place classification matches earlier in the day, Belgium thrashed Korea 6-1, while Australia eked out a narrow 2-1 win over Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.
Belgium will now face Australia in the fifth-sixth place play-off match, while Korea will play New Zealand for the seventh-eighth place.