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World Hockey League: Australia strike late to sink Belgium to clinch title

July 06, 2015 09:48 IST

Australia hockey players celebrate

Australia players celebrate. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Chris Ciriello sent a low drag flick into the right corner of the goal in the dying seconds as World champions Australia defeated hosts Belgium 1-0 to clinch the World League Semifinals title at the KHC Dragons Stadium in Antwerp on Sunday.

The title encounter seemed headed for the penalty shootout after Australia's two successive penalty corners in the last 25 seconds, the second of which Ciriello finally found the target by placing the shot wide of the Belgian goalkeeper's reach.

It was a heart-breaking moment for the partisan crowd, and Belgian goalkeeper Jeremy Gucassoff, who played a gallant game to thwart repeated raids by the Australian strikers.

World No 1 Australia laid siege on the Belgian citadel in the second half, forcing numerous penalty corners, but the goal eluded them as Belgium defended stoutly.

Belgian goalkeeper Gucassoff made acrobatic dives and leapt in the air to block goal-bound shots, while the players banking on a few breakaway counters to pose some danger at the other end of the pitch.

Australia did score three minutes from the hooter and the umpire blew for goal, but the decision was reversed as the ball had hit to foot of striker Blake Govers inside the scoring circle.

For a while in the first half, Belgium had an advantage as Australian player Tristan White was shown the yellow card and was off the turf for an extended period.

It became a nine versus 10-man contest when a player of either side were suspended for two minutes owing to a midfield clash, while White was still off the field. But Australia’s strong defence did not allow Belgium to gain any benefit.

Belgium's best chance came early in the second half when their ace striker Tom Boon flicked just wide from close range.

Earlier, Great Britain claimed the bronze medal by defeating India 5-1 in the playoff between the teams beaten in the semi-final.

All four semifinalists from this World League Semifinals qualified for the 2016 Olympics Games, with India making the grade as the gold medalists at the Incheon Asian Games.

Malaysia's effort to boost the Asian challenge at the Olympic Games, after Pakistan’s failure, was hampered on Sunday when Ireland defeated them 4-2 in the playoff for the fifth-place.

Ireland enhanced their claim to play in the Olympic hockey competition for the first time in over 100 years. Malaysia, who finished sixth, now await the countdown after the five continental champions have been decided.

Pakistan suffered another defeat on Sunday as France beat them 2-1 in the playoff for the seventh and eighth spots.

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