Thrilling stalemate blows semi-final race wide open

AFP , NEW DELHI

Tue, Mar 09, 2010 - Page 19

Defending champions Germany played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with the Netherlands on Sunday to throw open the semi-final race at the men’s field hockey World Cup.

Dutch skipper Teun de Nooijer scored the equalizer four minutes before the final whistle to help his team share the points in a crucial Group A match at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

With the last round of matches today, the Netherlands lead the group with 10 points, followed by Germany on eight, South Korea on seven and New Zealand on six.

The Dutch need a draw against the South Koreans to take one of the two semi-final spots from the Group. A South Korean win could see the Asian champions advance.

Germany must secure full points from New Zealand to confirm their place, while the Black Sticks also need to win and hope the other results go their way.

European champions England have already taken a semi-final place in Group B, with Australia the favorites to grab the second spot.

The Netherlands led Germany 1-0 at halftime after Wouter Jolie deflected in his team’s third penalty-corner in the 23rd minute.

The Germans, seeking a hat-trick of World Cup titles to add to their Olympic gold medal win in Beijing, hit back with goals from Oliver Korn in the 43rd minute and Jan-Marco Montag in the 63rd minute.

As the minutes ticked away, de Nooijer pounced on a pass from the right and pushed the ball in past stunned German goalkeeper Tim Jessulat.

“Its always good to get one point, rather than lose three,” de Nooijer said. “We were lucky to get that chance and take it, but we have to play well against the Koreans to make the semis.”

Earlier, Jang Jong-hyun scored three goals as South Korea routed lowly Canada 9-2 to keep their semi-final hopes alive.

Nam Hyun-woo and You Hyo-sik chipped in with two goals apiece for South Korea, as the Asian champions ran circles around the hapless Canadian defense in the high-scoring match.

The second half produced nine goals, two of them from Canada’s Philip Wright, after the South Koreans led 2-0 at the interval.

“We needed this win badly and I am happy it all came together today,” Korean coach Shin Seok-kyo said. “It will take a lot from our side and also our rivals to ensure we make it to the semi-finals. We can only control what we do and that is to beat the Dutch.”

New Zealand’s chances of making the knock-out round suffered a setback when they lost 1-0 to Argentina in the other Group A match.

New Zealand, who would have moved to nine points had they beaten Argentina, paid dearly for a missed penalty-stroke by Ryan Archibald three minutes before the interval.

Argentina scored the winner in the 55th minute through Facundo Callioni, who diverted in a pass from the right by Pedro Ibarra.

“Its disappointing to lose such a crucial game,” New Zealand captain Dean Couzins said. “We knew this could be a vital match and that is how it turned out.”