On June 6 & 7, six matches in Pool B and another six in Pool A were played in the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Except the drawn men’s game between Korea and South Africa on Friday, every match ended with a decisive margin. In an upset Pool B game, Argentinian men thrashed the mercurial Black Sticks from New Zealand 3-1 and followed up their earlier 1-0 win over mighty Germans on Wednesday. In another game on Friday, German men found themselves in a tight corner once again as they lost to hosts Netherlands 0-1. By Friday most teams; men’s or women’s, from both pools had played 4 league games each, with the exception of all Pool B women’s teams and Pool B men’s teams of Netherlands and South Africa. With an unassailable performance, Australian men are a semifinal certainty while Belgium is the other likely team unless they lose their remaining match badly and England win theirs with a huge margin. In pool B, Argentina and Netherlands are sitting pretty at the top but some surprise is still possible from Germany and New Zealand. On Saturday, India recorded their first victory in a Pool A league match, when they beat the Malaysian men 3-2.
India’s first win in the tournament against the bottom-placed Malaysian men on Saturday was a cause of cheer for the Indian hockey fans. Already out of contention in the Rabobank World Cup, the Indian side played for prestige and so did the Malaysians. India dominated proceedings in the first half but couldn’t convert the chances that came their way. India opened the scoring in 14th minute, when Jasjeet Singh Kular collected a ball from a missed penalty corner shot and drove past the Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam. But Kumar was brilliant otherwise, as he saved several scorching attempts by Indian forwards. His fantastic block on Sardar Singh’s drive was particularly noteworthy. The Malaysians managed the equalizer in the 46th minute from a powerful drag flick by Razie Abdul Rahim, who converted a penalty-corner award. But Indians were relentless in attack soon afterwards. Though it was Akashdeep Singh, who scored two superb goals, the efforts were made by India captain Sardar Singh, who never failed to impress. The first Akashdeep goal came from a brilliantly angled deflection and the next when Akashdeep’s drive from a chipped Sardar pass found Kumar surprised. The last 10 minutes of the game brought racy efforts from both sides but India and Malaysia’s gloriously gifted custodians in their goals affected great saves from time to time.
One of the more awaited encounters at the Kyocera stadium on Friday featured a clash of the European hockey giants. Expectedly, the fiercely contested men’s Pool B game between Germany and hosts Netherlands turned out to be quite exciting. Only a single goal was scored in the 70-minute match but the quality of the contest was top class. The Germans wanted to win this match to keep their semifinal hopes alive but that didn’t happen. In contrast the Netherlands team ended the game with a 100% win record. They dominated the proceedings from the beginning and almost scored within 5 minutes but fantastic goalkeeping by the German goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi kept the Dutch forwards at bay. In the 19th minute, Dutchman Jelle Galema dribbled around the German defenders before finding Jeroen Hertzberger in perfect position. Hertzberger collected the pass and shot at the German goal in a flash without giving any chance to Jacobi. The Germans raided the Dutch penalty area in the second half several times but solid defense from the hosts put paid to all their efforts. In the last 15 minutes, the pace of the game became too fast with attacks and counterattacks in quick succession but none of the teams could breach other’s goal and the match ended 1-0 in Netherland’s favor.
On Friday’s other matches for women, USA bludgeoned China 5-0; South Africa decimated England 4-1 and Argentinian women followed the good work from their countrymen to beat Germany 3-0. On Saturday, Australian men, who are aiming for victory here, had a roaring time against England, when they thrashed them, 5-0; Spain suffered nearly the similar fate as the Englishmen, when they lost to Belgium 2-5. In women’s matches on Saturday, Belgium lost to Korea 2-4; New Zealand beat Japan 4-1 and the strong Netherlands side defeated Australia 2-0. Great efforts from Korea’s goalkeeper Lee Myungho came in the way of South African men registering their first victory in the tournament as the match ended goalless.