An inspired Pakistan put their disappointing showing in the pool matches behind to stun World Cup and Olympics silver medallists the Netherlands 4-2 and reach the semi-finals of the Hero Champions Trophy hockey tournament, in Bhubaneswar, on Thursday.
The victory is Pakistan's first over the Dutch in the Champions Trophy in 12 attempts, a run dating back to the 1998 edition of the tournament in Lahore.
After back-to-back victories in the pool stage, the Netherlands slumped to their second straight defeat in the tournament and that too against a lower-ranked side.
The Dutch had earlier lost 2-3 to India in their final pool match on Tuesday.
Surprisingly, Pakistan, who returned without a victory from the pool engagements, looked a completely different side on Thursday as they dominated the mighty Dutch for major part of the match. They also had an impressive record in penalty-corners, converting three out of the four set-pieces that came their way.
It was the Dutch who got off to a flying start when Jeroen Hertzberger powered home a field goal in the sixth minute.
Immediately after, Pakistan skipper Muhammad Imran brilliantly saved a Mink van der Weerden drag-flick on the line.
Pakistan depended on counter-attacks and their plan yielded dividends.
Muhammad Waqas created an opening with some brilliant work on the right wing for Muhammad Umar Bhutta in the 16th minute and the Pakistani forward made no mistake to draw level early in the second quarter.
Muhammad Rizwan Sr then forced a brilliant save from Dutch custodian Jaap Stockman, but Pakistan took the lead five minutes from half-time when Imran scored with a low flick from a penalty-corner.
The Netherlands leveled the scores four minutes into the second half through Constantijn Jonker (39th), who neatly finished Rogier Hofman's driven cross from the right flank.
Pakistan maintained the pressure on the Dutch goal and Muhammad Irfan pumped in two goals in quick succession in the last 10 minutes of the match.
Irfan's goals came from penalty-corner variations. He first put Pakistan ahead in the 51st before applying the killer touch a minute later.
Pakistan will now face the winners of the match between India and Belgium in the semi-finals, while the Netherlands will play classification matches for fifth to eight positions.
Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh is understandably a happy man and said his boys played their best hockey after experimenting in the pool stages.
"Our tournament started today. We played our real game today. What experimentations we had to do we did in the pool matches," Sheikh told reporters after the victory.
"Before departure from Pakistan I said our target is a top four finish."
Asked who he would like to face as opponent between India and Belgium in the semis, he replied: "Obviously, we want to play against India because this will help in reviving India-Pakistan hockey."
The Netherlands’ coach, Max Caldas, was critical of his team's display.
"We were disappointing. We lacked discipline. It didn't look like we are ready to win the game," he said.
Australia beat Argentina, on course for sixth Champions crown
World champions and holders Australia finally got their mojo back and defeated Argentina 4-2 to join Pakistan in the semi-finals.
After a not-so-impressive outing in the tournament where they won one, lost one and drew one game, the Kookaburras got their act together against the World Cup bronze medallists.
It took Australia six minutes to surge ahead as Simon Orchard got a stick to Russell Ford's hard cross from the right flank.
Argentina equalised a minute into the second quarter through skipper Matias Paredes (16th), who volleyed home a great goal following a fine build-up between Lucas Vila and Facundo Callioni.
Five minutes into the second half, Argentina took the lead through Manuel Brunet's (35th) field goal after a great move.
But Argentina's lead lasted just two minutes as Jeremy Hayward scored his third goal of the tournament with a fierce drag-flick from a penalty-corner.
Australia then found the net twice in the span of 12 minutes to take control of the match.
Daniel Beale (42nd minute) first scored from an open play before Chris Ciriello fired home a penalty-corner to give Australia a two-goal cushion.
Argentina tried hard to make a comeback but failed to breach the alert Australian defence.
In Saturday’s semi-finals, Australia will play Germany, who beat England 2-0 in another quarter-final.
Germany down England
Olympic champions Germany produced a perfect game to beat England 2-0 in an all-European battle en route their semi-finals.
At the Kalinga Stadium, the Germans, who finished at the bottom in the pool stages, produce defensive master-class to tame the high-flying Englishmen, who impressed in the opening round and topped Pool A.
The Germans scored a goal each in the second and fourth quarters through Moritz Furste (30th minute) and Christopher Ruhr (58th).
While Germany will take on World champions Australia in the semi-finals on Saturday, England play Argentina in the classification for 5-8 places.