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 March 6, 2002 | 1615 IST
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Big four set for semi-finals showdown

Pre-tournament favourites Germany play Korea in the semi-finals of the hockey World Cup on Thursday while holders the Netherlands take on unbeaten Australia for the third time in a row at this stage of the championship.

The two European sides were first and second in Pool A and clinched their semi-final places on Tuesday, defeating Pakistan 3-2 and South Africa 3-0 respectively.

Australia, with six straight wins in Pool B, had already qualified before they beat India 4-3 while Korea advanced despite a 2-0 defeat by England.

German coach Bernhard Peters was confident his team's success in the so-called "Pool of Death" would bolster their confidence when they meet the Koreans.

"The Koreans are tough, skilful and fast. They have a good front line and excellent technical discipline. We know about Mr Song (Korean top scorer Song Seung Tae) as he plays for Muenchengladbach in Germany," Peters added.

Germany also have skipper Florian Kunz back on penalty-corner striking form.

FAVOURITE STICK

He scored his first two conversions of the finals against Pakistan after his favourite stick arrived in Kuala Lumpur, having been rushed across Germany for team mate Michael Green's mother to bring with her on Saturday.

Kunz scored 10 goals with the stick at the 2001 Champions Trophy tournament in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Bjorn Michel has netted five times for Germany and strikers Oliver Domke and Sascha Reinelt have three each.

Australia coach Barry Dancer, having seen his side score 28 goals -- with six from Craig Victory and four each from Troy Elder, Michael McCann and Jeremy Hiskins -- and concede only six in seven straight wins in their pool, was confident of a cup final place.

"(The Netherlands) have a lot of pace in their strikers and they are very aggressive. We are confident enough to beat them, but we have to execute that," he said.

Dancer dismissed the history between the sides -- the Dutch won both semi-finals in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups -- saying the "the stage is set for the new players to write their page in history".

"This team is ready to beat Holland and our defence will be our cornerstone," a confident Dancer said.

Ebullient Dutch coach Joost Bellaart watched Australia beat Korea on Monday from the press box at the National Hockey stadium in what he said was "their first big match of the tournament".

"They were very impressive, played in fifth gear and ran all over the Koreans," he said.

"We will not give them an easy time. We have experienced players who can play in finals and get medals," Bellaart said of his three-times World Cup winners and current Olympic champions.

"We have experience of tough matches (in the finals) and they have not. Fit as they are, they have not had to dig deep into their energy. There is a big difference in tension between games in Pool A and Pool B," he said.

Teun de Nooijer, who scored the winner in the last World Cup final to defeat Spain, leads the Dutch strikers with four goals followed by Bram Tomans and Karel Klavel, who both with three.

The semi-finalists meet on Thursday evening and the third and fourth play-off game precedes the final on Saturday.

The other 12 teams play two days of play-off matches to decide positions five-16 in the World Cup standings.

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