History beckons as OZ meet Dutch

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 15 Dec 2018 12:27:36


BHUBANESWAR,

(PTI)

Belgium face England

A RARE history awaits two-time defending champions Australia as they chase a record hat-trick of titles, taking on Netherlands in the semi-finals of the men’s hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium here on Saturday.

World no. 1 Australia is second only to four-time champions Pakistan, having won the world title thrice before, which includes back-to-back gold medals in the last two editions of the tournament in 2010 and 2014.

Come Saturday, the Kookaburras will be chasing their third consecutive world crown. But it would be easier said than done as in world no 4 Netherlands a tough contest awaits Australia. The Dutch, who have won the title thrice before — the last time being in 1998 —, too would be desperate to break their 20-year-old jinx. Netherlands would be high on confidence especially after their hard-fought 2-1 win over home favourites India in the quarter-finals on Thursday. Going by form and world ranking, it is expected to be an edge of the seat thriller between the two teams, who prefer to play totally contrasting style of hockey.

While attacking hockey is the back bone of Australia, the Dutch mostly prefer to play waiting game with a compact defence and relying more on counters to surprise their opponents. There is hardly anything to differentiate between the two sides going by recent head-to-head record. Since 2013, Australia and Netherlands have played each other 11 times with the Kooburras winning five and losing four while two ended in draws.The Australians made a slow start but grew in confidence as the tournament progressed.

After a hard-fought 2-1 win over Ireland in their opener, Australia stepped on the gas and registered convincing wins over England (3-0), China (11-0) and France (3-0). The Dutch, on the other hand, started with a bang and mauled Malaysia 7-0 before losing 1-4 to Germany.