Viet Nam News
JOHANNESBURG — Giants Australia clawed to a thrilling 3-2 Men’s Hockey World League semi-final victory over France in Johannesburg on Tuesday after conceding two early goals.
Although 15 places below second-ranked Australia, France shrugged off the 18-second green-carding of Hugo Genestet to take a shock two-goal lead inside eight minutes.
Victor Charlet converted a penalty corner and Pieter van Straaten scored a field goal at a University of the Witwatersrand hockey stadium.
The rattled "Kookaburras" halved the deficit early in the second quarter of the Pool A match when Jake Whetton netted.
A prolonged period of Australian pressure followed, but narrow misses and heroic French defending kept the scoreline unchanged until Josh Pollard levelled nine minutes from time.
France were reduced to 10 men almost immediately when Blaise Rogeau was harshly yellow-carded.
Australia took advantage of their numerical superiority within a minute when Mark Knowles converted a penalty stroke to win the match.
The French abandoned their defensive shell in the closing minutes in search of an equaliser and wasted a last-second chance when a penalty corner was mishit.
"This match emphasised that there is very rarely an easy match in the Hockey World League," said relieved Australia coach Colin Batch.
"We knew it would be tough against France and prepared accordingly, but they troubled us in the early stages with counter-attacks.
"Our team has changed since the Rio Olympics with the introduction of some new players and we are on a learning curve."
Tom Craig, who starred for Australia during the second half, said: "We need to tighten up and be more focused in the first 10 to 15 minutes of our next match."
Australia face Spain, seven places higher than France in the world rankings, Thursday during matchday 3 of the men’s tournament.
New Zealand overcame a penalty-corner crisis to defeat 2020 Olympic Games hockey hosts Japan 3-1 in the same section.
Brave defending and poor execution saw the winners squander six penalty corners before Jared Panchia and Nic Woods scored from the next two.
New Zealand lead Group A with four points, Australia and Spain have three, France one and Japan are pointless.
Germany, ranked third in the world behind Argentina and Australia, started sluggishly against Pool B whipping boys Egypt before cantering to a 5-0 victory.
Thrashed 10-0 by Belgium two days ago, Egypt contained Germany for 23 minutes and restricted them to three goals before conceding two in two minutes late on.
Belgium followed up the matchday 1 goal rush by coming from behind to whip Ireland 6-2 with Tom Boom netting a hat-trick off penalty corners to become leading scorer with five goals.
Ranked fifth in the world, Belgium have six points, Germany and Ireland three, and South Africa and Egypt are pointless. — AFP