Hockey World League: England set up semifinal clash against New Zealand
England prevailed 1-0 in a hard-fought contest against Belgium while New Zealand eked out a thrilling victory over Argentina via sudden death. Both these teams will clash against each other in the semis on Friday.
New Zealand notched up a thrilling 4-3 quarterfinal win against Argentina via the sudden death after the 70th minute scoreline read 1-1, to qualify for the semifinals of the Hockey World League Final on Wednesday.
The Black Sticks will take on World No.4 England in the last four clash at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Friday after the Englishmen edged Belgium 1-0 in the first eight clash.
The first shootout of the tournament took place after Kane Russel, for the Kiwis, and Matias Paredes, for the Los Leones, hit a goal each to end with a 1-1 scoreline in regulation time. Both teams scored two goals each in the penalty shootout to take the game to sudden death.
Agustin Mazzilli of Argentina and Kiwi Hugo Inglis scored in sudden death. Lucas Vila failed to score for Argentina and it was Blair Hilton who became the hero of the hour as he took the ball wide around Argentine goalkeeper Joaquin Berthold and scored to put New Zealand in the semis.
Earlier, England showed resilience to soak up sustained pressure from Belgium to become the first team to secure a semifinal berth. Unbeaten in the tournament, England looked uncomfortable at the start but a series of saves by goalkeeper George Pinner kept them in the hunt.
Tom Carson thought he had broken the deadlock early on but a video referral resulted in the goal being disallowed. Both teams played with well-structured defensive passes and so there was little significant goal-mouth action at either end of the pitch.
The second half saw Belgium take the initiative, winning a penalty corner in the opening minute which drew another save from Pinner.
Two penalty corners to England increased the pressure on Belgium and it was Carson in the 47the minute who scored the crucial goal, drag-flicking from the edge of the circle.
The match continued at an intense pace and England were forced to put up a staunch defence as Belgium piled the pressure. England went on to book their place in the semifinals while Belgium will now play the 5-8 position playoffs.
"Both teams did a good job with their defence and it was a very tight game. I am happy that we continue with our winning form. This shows the progression that we have made. From here, we want to lift the trophy and going forward, the same is the goal for the World Cup," said England head coach Bobby Crutchley.