England, Aussies eye final

Hockey World League Final

England, Aussies eye final

Indians take on Olympic champs Germany in 5-8th play-off match

The Hero Hockey World League Final has reached its business end with most of the top teams making it to the semifinals with the exception of Germany.

The World No 1 and Olympic champions were without some of their key players. The fact that Germany were in the middle of their indoor hockey season also affected their preparation. Their defeat to the Netherlands, the side that lost to them in the London Olympic final, therefore was not a surprise.  In the league stages, they had lost to England and drew with India.

Joining the Dutch, ranked three, in the last four stages, were World No 2 Australia, World No 4 England and World No 7 New Zealand. In the first semifinal, England will be the clear favourites when the take on New Zealand. England had inflicted a 5-1 hammering to the Black Sticks in the league stage and will be gearing for an encore. More so, the Englishmen are unbeaten in the tournament so far and are brimming with confidence.

“I am yet to come over this feeling of how we managed to stay undefeated so far. It’s a very good feeling but in all this the team is not losing focus and is looking forward to play New Zealand during the semis. In our last match here we beat them and hoping we do it again tomorrow. One positive is that players like Ashley Jackson and Tom Carson are in great form,” England captain Barry Middleton said.

The second semifinal will be a contest between the two top sides in the tournaments, the Australia  and the Netherlands. Though the Dutch might like to seek some encouragement from their 1-0 defeat of Australia in their Group B match, they would not be unmindful of the fact that the Kookaburras had only got better from that defeat. They demolished Argentina (6-1), who were on a roll till then, before handing India a crushing 7-2 defeat in the quarterfinals. The Australians are in an irresistible form at the moment and favourites to win the title.

The fitness of the Australians gives them the edge and it was little surprise then that the Dutch spent their practice session on Thursday testing their physical abilities apart from trying out corners and variations.

“Tomorrow’s match is a big game for both the teams and it is yet to be seen who can manage to keep their cool and come out as the winners. The fans tomorrow will get to see Australia’s physical ability as against the Dutch speed and skills,” Netherlands captain, Robert Van Der Horst said.

For the home fans, India will be out against Germany for 5th-8th position match. The tournament has given them the measure against the top hockey nations and the home side will do well to learn its lessons from here.

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