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Australia, Germany, Netherlands and Spain in men's hockey semis
August 19, 2008 11:51 IST
Last Updated: August 19, 2008 23:24 IST
Defending champions Australia [Images] led the march of the top four nations into the semi-finals of the men's hockey competition for the second time in a row.
In Thursday's semi-finals, world number one Australia clash with fourth-ranked Spain, while third-placed Netherlands take on number two Germany [Images].
The semi-final line-up is identical to the one at Athens four years ago where Australia won their maiden title by beating the Dutch in the extra-time in the final.
Spain topped pool A with 12 points, one ahead of Germany. The Netherlands, champions in 1996 and 2000, finished first in pool B with 13 points, two more than Australia.
Germany rediscovered their best form to reach the semi-finals with an imposing 3-1 victory over New Zealand [Images] in pool A on Tuesday.
In pool B, the Dutch also reached the last four when they beat Pakistan 4-2. Penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema unleashed two vicious drag flicks to help the Dutch to victory.
Bronze medallists four year ago, Germany struck twice by the ninth minute to send out a warning that they have regained their touch after a shaky start had almost wrecked their campaign.
Back-to-back drawn games against Belgium and South Korea had checked their progress, but Germany had got their campaign back on track with a 1-0 win over co-favourites Spain in their previous game.
Underling their potential, German striker Florian Keller scored the final goal with a fabulous solo run. He kissed his sweatband in the black, red and gold colours of the national flag in jubilation.
Germany were ruthless in their execution with precise passes and speedy forays. Skipper Timo Wess converted a penalty corner in the fifth minute. Four minutes later Matthias Witthaus dived in the striking area to score off a long pass.
New Zealand, who were in contention for a last four place, stung back in he 46th minute through a penalty corner by Hayden Shaw.
But Keller's strike put the match out of their reach.
"We took the fight. If we play like this we can beat anyone," Wess said.
Germany have set their sights on gold they last won in 1992 Barcelona.
"After the third game (following two draws) I said it was not all over and we'll come back. The same is for the next two matches," Wess said.
Defending champions Australia were effectively guaranteed a semi-final spot after three wins and a draw with the Dutch.
The Australians drew Britain 3-3 in their final match on Tuesday. Britain trailed Australia by three points before the match and had a much inferior goal difference.
Eddie Ockenden scored the equaliser for the Aussies two minutes before the final whistle of a dramatic game in which the spirited British team kept the favourites on their toes.
Bevan George and Jamie Dwyer were the other scorers for Australia, who needed a draw to qualify. Barry Middleton, Richard Mantell and Rob Moore got the goals for Britain, who last won gold in 1988.
Santiago Freixa slammed two goals as Spain beat South Korea 2-1.
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