Netherlands, Germany look to seal semis berths

The penultimate round of group matches on Sunday could well have thrown up the qualifiers but sport has a way of surprising its followers, and the results of the day have only succeeded in setting up an exciting conclusion to the pool, with Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea and New Zealand still in with a chance.

Germany will face New Zealand and the Netherlands are up against South Korea in the two main matches of the day while Canada and Argentina will meet in the last match, seeking to avoid the contest for the wooden spoon.

The Netherlands had a great opportunity to seal the semifinal berth on Sunday itself but the high voltage contest against Germany ended in a draw, leaving them with an uncomfortable contest against the Koreans to decide their fate.

The Netherlands, on ten points, now need at least a draw to qualify, for last-minute hiccups related to goal difference can crop up in case they lose by a big margin.
Three-time world champions they might be, but they have a poor record against the Koreans, having lost five of their last six matches to the Asian champions in major competitions.

Their last encounter came at the Champions Trophy in Melbourne in December when the Koreans defeated the Netherlands 4-2 to win the bronze – their first medal in the elite tournament.

The Koreans, Asia’s last hope after the exit of India and Pakistan, have seven points but they have had a strange tournament so far.

They were ultra-impressive against Germany but slipped badly against New Zealand. Even the 9-2 victory against Canada has raised their hopes only marginally, for they need to win by a five-goal margin against the Dutchmen.

Germany, with eight points, start the favourites against New Zealand, who could have taken a big step forward in world hockey had they beaten Argentina on Sunday.

Having lost out, their fate is out of their hands now, for they have to beat Germany and hope for the Netherlands to defeat Korea.

Grit under pressure
After missing out Simon Child and then losing captain Phillip Burrows to an injury, the Kiwis have been a bit handicapped here and it will be a big surprise if they beat Germany. The defending champions might be here with a young team but these men have displayed typical German trait of grit under pressure.

They forced a fighting draw against Korea in their opener and on Sunday, fought back superbly to thwart the Dutch designs. Marshalled by Max Muller in defence and Matthias Witthaus in the midfield, the Germans may not have the flair of some of the other teams but they know the way to their goals and it will take a special effort from the Black Sticks to stop them.

Today’s action

Tuesday’s matches, all Pool A:
* Germany vs New Zealand (4.35 pm).
* South Korea vs The Netherlands (6.35 pm).
* Canada vs Argentina (8.35 pm).
Matches live on TEN Sports

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