India and Australia land first HWL wins to upset form guide and reach semis

©: Frank Uijlenbroek / World Sport Pics



India and Australia flipped the form book on its head as they overcome sluggish group stages to knock-out Belgium and Spain, respectively, on the first day of quarter-finals.

India earned just one point in the group stages while the Belgians won all three of their ties but the Asian side bounced back in the knock-out game to record a big shoot-out victory after a 3-3 draw in normal time.

One minute into the second half, the mammoth home crowd erupted with joy when Gurjant Singh forced home from close range to give India a shock lead against the pre-match favourites, an advantage that was doubled four minutes later thanks to a ferocious penalty corner flick from Harmanpreet Singh.

The Red Lions were stunned, but regained their composure to score twice either side of the third quarter break. Both goals were penalty corners that came from the stick of Loick Luypaert, who took his competition tally to a remarkable eight in four matches.

India hit back almost immediately when Rupinder Pal Singh scored a penalty corner, but a deflected goal from Belgium's Amaury Keusters took the score to 3-3 and forced the match into the most entertaining and dramatic of shoot-outs.

For Spain, they were beaten 4-1 by Australia. The Spaniards had a good group stage, beating the Netherlands and Argentina, while the Kookaburras drew all three of their games.

It was Fred Soyez’s team who went ahead when Marc Garcia got a crucial touch on crashed ball into the circle to find the target. Jeremy Hayward restored parity two minutes ahead of half time with a low and powerful penalty corner effort.

Three penalty corner goals in three minutes early in the fourth quarter killed the contest, with Aaron Kleinschmidt and a double for Blake Govers putting the defending champions into the semi-finals.

“The push-out, trap and flick was really good today”, said Australia captain Mark Knowles, referring to his side’s ruthlessness from penalty corner situations. “You cannot have a world class flicker if someone cannot push it out flat, and it was very pleasing to the coaching staff.”

The two remaining quarter-final matches will be played on Thursday with England taking on Argentina before Germany play the Netherlands.