Germany – Pakistan
1-2 (1-0 halftime)
Pakistan earned a spot in the 2012 Champions Trophy semi-finals after stunning defending Olympic Champion and World #1 Germany in a 2-1 decision in today’s quarterfinal. Is it the first time since 2004 that Pakistan finds itself in the hunt for a medal at the Champions Trophy. On the other side of the coin, this is the second consecutive time that Germany has missed the semi-finals at the annual event.
Shakeel Abbasi was the man of the hour for Pakistan. He fired in both Pakistan goals in the surprising win.
Pakistan was simply the better team in today’s game, generating more scoring chances and chipping away at the tough German defense, which found itself on duty for much of the 70 minutes. The Germans managed just one shot in the first half, but they made it count as veteran Moritz Fuerste, one of only three players in Melbourne from the 2012 Olympic team, gave the Germans a 1-0 lead nine minutes into action.
Pakistan was not put off by the goal and maintained its pressure on the German net. Admittedly not all of the scoring chances were impressive, but it put Pakistan in a better position to get the odd penalty corner chance.
Pakistan’s persistence finally paid off when Abbasi scored a picture-perfect goal four minutes into the second half on a follow-up play after a penalty corner opportunity to even things up at one. Abbasi struck again with 20 minutes to go on in the half after he put in another second-effort goal after a penalty corner. The key goal went to video review, but it was ruled valid and Pakistan climbed out to its first lead of the game.
The lead endured through an action-packed 20 minutes as Germany found itself two men up in the last two minutes but unable to get the equalizer as Pakistan earned their semi-final spot.
Pakistan will take on the winner of the Netherlands vs. New Zealand match in Saturday’s semi-final.
Netherlands – New Zealand
2-0 (1-0 halftime)
After watching fellow European nation Germany fall in the quarterfinals, the Netherlands left nothing to chance, earning a 2-0 win against New Zealand and securing a spot in Saturday’s semi-finals. The victory means that the Dutch will go for their third-consecutive medal at the Champions Trophy and will finish in the top-four for the 25th consecutive time at the annual event.
The Netherlands was the clear favorite entering the game as the top seed out of Pool B and having only lost once in Champions Trophy history against New Zealand. Both teams made the Champions Trophy semi-finals last year as the game was a replay of the 2011 Champions Trophy bronze medal game, which the Netherlands won,
Jeroen Hertzberger gave the Dutch the 1-0 lead 13 minutes into the game when his flick easily found the back of the net on the second Netherlands penalty corner chance of the game. The teams went back and forth for the rest of the half with neither having any scoring success as the 1-0 lead endured.
The second half was much of the same until Billy Bakker finished a good breakout play to net the critical 2-0 goal. The marker gave the top-seeded Dutch some much-needed breathing room against the pesky and persistent fourth-seeded Black Sticks. After the goal, the Dutch played a game of cat and mouse, allowing New Zealand very few chances to get close to the net.
The Dutch have won bronze at the previous two editions of the Champions Trophy and have earned 21 total medals at the event. The third-ranked team in the FIH World Ranking has not played in the finals at the Champions Trophy since 2006, something they will look to remedy in Saturday’s semi-final against Pakistan. The last time Pakistan played in the final game was 1998.
Australia – England
2-0 (1-0 halftime)
Host Australia kept its hopes alive to win its fifth consecutive Champions Trophy title after earning a berth in the semi-finals with a 2-0 win over England. Australia will take on India in Saturday’s semi-final game. The Aussies have lost only twice against India in 11 Champions Trophy meetings, with the last defeat coming in 2002.
Jamie Dwyer showed that he is still among the world’s elite players when his reverse shot broke the Aussies onto the scoreboard 15 minutes into the game. It was a frantic pace that followed, but neither team was able to score through the rest of the half as the tournament had its fourth 1-0 score at the half on Quarterfinal Thursday.
The teams came out from the break and picked up right where they left off with dangerous scoring chances and fast feet. But again, despite the action, the goals were at a premium. It wasn’t until Christopher Ciriello stepped up and fired in a textbook penalty corner goal that the Aussies were able to build on their lead. It was the first game since the tournament opener that Australia netted more than one goal in a game.
England put in a gutsy effort after the Ciriello marker, but Australia their offense stalled against a strong Australian team.
Saturday’s semi-final game will be a meeting of two teams with very different fortunes at the Champions Trophy. Australia now has the chance to go for its sixth-straight medal at the Champions Trophy and an unprecedented fifth-straight gold medal at the event. They will take on India, who has just one bronze in their Champions Trophy history which was won in 1982.
The loss puts England out of the medal race at the Champions Trophy for the second consecutive year (the team played as Great Britain at the 2011 edition). The English will take on Belgium on Saturday to determine which team will play for fifth place and which will play for seventh.
India – Belgium
1-0 (1-0 halftime)
After sitting out of the Champions Trophy for the last six editions, India’s grand return to hockey’s top stage continued as they earned a spot in Saturday’s semi-final where they will take on the winner of the Australia v. England quarterfinal. India’s earned its spot after a nail-biting 1-0 win against a persistent Belgium team in an entertaining quarterfinal meeting.
The Indians will go for their first Champions Trophy medal since 1982 and are guaranteed their first top-four finish since 2004. A massive success considering the fact that the Indians came into the even as the lowest team in the FIH World Ranking, weighing in at #11.
Nithin Thimmaiah gave India the early advantage after getting a perfect feed from Sardar Singh for the easy 1-0 tap in. Belgium slowly gained momentum as the half wore on and gave the Indians some worrying moments late in the half with two good penalty corner chances, but ultimately, India escaped the half with the slim 1-0 lead.
The second half, it was India’s turn to own the momentum, but they simply couldn’t convert their chances into goals, as the tension built with only one goal separating the teams. Belgium had a handful of later penalty corner opportunities, while the Indians had a speedy counter attack, but neither team managed to put a dent in the scoreboard as Thimmaiah’s goal stood as the lone marker in the critical quarterfinal game.
Belgium is still looking for the elusive first victory at the Champions Trophy. The newcomers have put in some strong performances, but own a 0-4 record so far. The Belgians will look to get the first win in the placement round.
Today marked Sardar Singh’s 150th international cap for India.
Germany – Pakistan