Hockey World CupOf eight teams in the men’s and women’s semifinals taken together, six came from three nations and the other two were; USA women and England men. A notable absentee was Germany, from where neither the men nor the women’s team could enter the last four. There were no surprises about men and women teams from hosts Netherlands and Australia making it to the last four but in the biggest news at this year’s Hockey World Cup, Argentinian men and women teams reached the semifinals. All that was two days ago. For now, however, the count has come down to just two nations as Australia and the Netherlands will fight out for both men’s and women’s trophy at Rabobank World Cup Hockey at The Hague on Saturday and Sunday to bring the curtains down on the Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014.

In women’s first semifinal on Thursday, Australians warded off a tough challenge from the Americans. The two committed and physically-matched teams provided a thrilling display. Australia led 1-0 at halftime by a goal scored by Kelly White. The second half was keenly fought with both sides finding scoring opportunities. USA equalized in the 48th minute with Kelsey Kolojejchick moving deftly with the ball before hitting past the Australian goalkeeper. Australia restored the lead to 2-1 through a 52nd minute penalty corner shot by the brilliant Anna Flanagan. After this goal, the game moved at a very fast pace. Though USA were ranked 10th at the start of the tournament, they shook the Australians with great intensity. With two minutes left for the hooter, USA equalized yet again, when Michelle Vitesse’s valiant attempt resulted in sending the match to the penalty shoot-out. Australia’s superb goalkeeper Rachael Lynch allowed just one goal from Kelsey Kolojejchick but in turn, Australia found the target three times as Kellie White, Georgie Parker and Jodie Kenny all shooting without making errors.

Women’s second semifinal saw Netherlands defeating Argentina 4-0. Dutchwomen dominated from start and Kelly Jonker almost put them ahead but argentine goalkeeper made a great save. Netherlands’ first goal came from a rookie Xan de Waard, who demonstrated super hockey skills in turning around on top of the circle and using a deft reverse stick strike to send the ball in. Netherlands made it 2-0 in 16th minute, when Maartje Paumen scored from penalty corner to take her tournament goal tally to seven. The third goal came in the 22nd minute, when Kim Lammers made two attempts and succeeded in the second. With a 0-3 halftime deficit, Argentina forced two penalty corners, but wasted both. Netherlands scored their fourth goal in the 70th minute, when Kim Lammers scored again. It was a disappointment for the Latin American women, who had a great tournament otherwise.

Men’s first semifinal on Friday was full of thrills between Netherlands and England. Netherlands went ahead 1-0 in 31st minute, when Mink van Weerden converted a penalty corner from an attractive drag flick that rose above Pinner’s left shoulder before it shook the net. England also attacked the Dutch defense but couldn’t find the equalizer. Netherland too couldn’t build up their lead as England goalkeeper George Pinner stood like a rock. Billy Bakker, Valentin Verga and Sander de Wijn pressurized England with their speed and aggression but the solid English defense thwarted them.

In Men’s second semi-final, Australia’s dominated the Argentinians in a display of high quality hockey. Despite the Australian superiority, Argentina showed flashes of brilliance to confirm their great run in the tournament as a major force in the world hockey scene. Australia took an early lead in the 4th minute, when Kieran Govers scored from a perfect penalty corner drag flick. Then it was 2-0 for Australia, when Jeremy Hayward scored in the 22nd minute from a stinging shot. Before halftime, Australia scored another goal, when Jacob Whetton received a great pass from captain Mark Knowles and made no error in firing a hit to make it 3-0. The stunning Australians didn’t let up in the second half and built their lead further. In the 49th minute Chris Ciriello scored from a rocket-like drag flick and six minutes later, Hayward converted a penalty corner to make it 5-0 for Australia. Argentina were pushed back but they were not cowed down and finally scored their only goal in 58th minute, when Gonzalo Peillat produced a rocking drag-flick from a penalty corner strike to take his tournament tally to 10 goals. Earlier, Argentina made history when they beat South Africa 5-1 to qualify for the semi-finals. In nearly 120 year history, it was the first time that Argentina entered the last four stage of any major tournament.

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R K Gupta

Though Mr. RK Gupta was employed as a Mechanical Engineer until 2011, he had a penchant for writing on various topics. But he liked sports, more than anything else, because he was naturally interested in major international sports. In his childhood, he even participated in Hockey and Cricket at school and college levels. It came as no surprise to his friends, colleagues and relatives, when he took to professional writing after his retirement in 2011. Until last year, he continued as a major blog writer for an upcoming Indian website, which even honored him with the top award as the most passionate blogger. For the past eight months, however, Mr. Gupta has been actively associated with Kridangan.com, contributing on nearly all major international sporting activities. Most of his posts are topical in nature, where popular and contemporary sports events are keenly followed by a large world-wide audience.