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Australia bounce back to beat Korea 4-2; enter WC final
Anand Philar | September 16, 2006 00:28 IST
Olympic champions Australia exhibited a great fightback to snatch an astounding 4-2 victory over Asian challengers South Korea and book a berth in the final of the men's hockey World Cup Monchengladbach, Germany on Friday night.
Twice down by a goal in a thrilling semifinal clash, the never-say-die Aussies slammed four goals in the second half to stamp their authority and move into the final in style at the Warsteiner Hockey Park.
In a high-class encounter of aggressive and near-flawless hockey, Koreans gave the No 1 ranked Australians a run for their money through goals by drag-flicker Jong Hyun Jang (31st minute) and Seong Jung Kang (41st).
But, the Kangaroos came back to fire four goals through strikes by captain Bevan George (38th), Travis Brooks (51st), Jamie Dwyer (61st) and M McCan (70th) and smash the Koreans' golden dream.
The valiant and incredible saves by Korean custodian Dong Sik Ko as well as the advantage of getting the lead twice in the match went in vain for Korea, semi-finalists at the 2002 World Cup, as they met a similar fate tonight.
The Koreans, enjoyed a good first-half when they had Australia on the ropes with a series of penetrative attacks before forging ahead when Jong Hyun Jang converted the third penalty corner.
Australia caught up in the 38th minute when George diverted Luke Doerner's well-disguised pass from a penalty corner.
But the Koreans regained the initiative as Kang, cutting in from the right, found the net with a wrong-foot flick that caught goalkeeper Stephen Mowlam off-guard.
The Aussies kept their composure and came up with another variation from a penalty corner, this time Travis Brooks finishing a brilliant one-touch passing bout involving Troy Elder and George.
Hereabouts, the Australians stepped up the pace and took control of the game and Dwyer deflected a Mark Knowles diagonal and with seconds left, McCann exchanged a 1-2 with Brooks to flick home the fourth goal.
It was a brilliant tactical win for the Aussies who played an uncharacteristic game in the first-half when they strove to slow down the pace with little of their patented aggression in evidence.
The Koreans made the best of the situation with the opponents preferring to lie back and ride the punches that, however, could not deliver a knock-out.
Rather, the Aussies tended to play a waiting game and making the Koreans do the running. The strategy nearly backfired with the Koreans coming close to scoring before Jang converted for the first goal.
The Australians then switched gears to equalise and as the match progressed, they stepped on the throttle and after equalising a second time, they piled on pressure that finally cracked the Korean defence.
It was Australia's third entry into the final, having won the Cup in 1986 and finished runners-up to Germany in 2002.
In the final on Sunday, Australia meet the winners of the second semi-finals between reigning champions Germany and Spain to be played later tonight.