France stun Argentina to become story of the World Cup so far

©: Frank Uijlenbroek/world Sport Pics

France produced a sensational second quarter performance to stun Olympic champions Argentina 5-3 and grab the win they needed to claim second in their World Cup group.

In the process, the lowest ranked side eliminated Spain who let a two-goal lead slip against New Zealand to end their competition in fourth place.

Going into the tie, France needed a win of any kind – or possibly a 5-5 draw with plenty of field goals – and they stormed into a stormed into a 4-1 half time lead against their illustrious opponents.

Hugo Genestet, Waterloo Ducks’ Victor Charlet and Royal Leopold duo Aristide Coisne and Gaspard Baumgarten were on target for the Europeans, with Lucas Martinez scoring for Los Leones.

It was a fantasy half-time score-line for France, putting them within touching distance of the crossover places.

Although the lead held by France was a commanding one, Argentina have proven many times down the years that they are capable of coming back from unlikely positions. Mannheimer HC’s Gonzalo Peillat’s low penalty corner just before the end of the third quarter gave the South Americans hope, setting up a very exciting final quarter.

Another ferocious penalty corner drag-flick from Peillat made it 4-3 at the start of the fourth period, but it was France who had the last say when Saint Germain’s Francois Goyet deflected home to seal an extraordinary 5-3 victory to move into the cross-over play-offs as the second placed finisher in Pool A.

“It’s really amazing, an incredible game for us”, said player of the match Hugo Genestet. “I think the first half was almost perfect, although we stepped down a little bit after half time.

“They scored with one of the best drag flickers in the world, but our fifth goal was really cool, arriving at a good moment. We know we can beat every team in this competition, but 5-3 against the Olympic champion and to finish second in the pool, it’s incredible.”

Spain had looked good in their tie with Albert Beltan and Alvaro Iglesias giving them a 2-0 lead against New Zealand. The Blacksticks, though, produced a strong closing nine minutes with Hayden Phillips smashing a punch shot into the top of the goal.

Leopold’s Kane Russell nailed a penalty corner drag-flick for 2-2 and a draw that ultimately won them third place in the group and saw them advance to the crossover games.

“It’s a pretty good feeling in the end, but we probably didn’t control the game too well”, said goal-scorer Russell. “We were struggling to create opportunities and their defence was really sound. The goal we scored and then taking our goalie off gave us a little bit of momentum.”

On Friday, Australia face surprise package China first with the Kookburras place in the last eight already assured. If China lose by less than three, they will be assured of a crossover game but a big loss could see them waiting nervously for the outcome of Ireland’s game with England.

Speaking ahead of his team’s head-to-head with Ireland, England co-captain George Pinner said: “I was really pleased with large parts of our performance last match [against Australia]. We stuck to the game plan and were very much in the game.

“The final score-line [3-0 defeat] is frustrating but I think there are lots of positives for us to build on and take into the final group game. The Ireland match is a big game but we have been in this position before. We will do everything we can to prepare properly both mentally and physically to give ourselves the best chance of progressing.”

Ireland Head Coach Alexander Cox said: "The game against England is very important, as it was always going to be, for both sides. We know what we need to do and are entirely focused on that. We have nothing to lose against England."