Korea in danger of missing World Cup semi-finals

March 6th, 2010 - 1:08 am ICT by IANS  

By Avishek Roy and Sirshendu Panth
New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) The woes of the Asian teams continued as Korea followed India and Pakistan to the brink of missing the semi-final cut even as European powerhouses the Netherlands and Germany remained in the hunt with contrasting wins at the Hockey World Cup here Friday.

Asian champions Korea, who finished fourth in the last two editions of the World Cup, went down to a resolute New Zealand 1-2 to find themselves behind the top three in Pool A from where only the first two can move to the pre-summit round.

One time Kings of world hockey India and Pakistan are also lying fourth and fifth in Pool B, with a slim chance of making to the podium rounds.

Three time winners the Netherlands, in a second half blitz, decimated Caanda 6-0 to move atop Pool A with nine points after three wins on the trot at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

Holders Germany survived some anxious moments before pipping Argentina 4-3 to move up to the second spot in the pool with seven points. New Zealand are a rung behind with six points, as the semi final race from the Pool now seems a three-horse race.

For New Zealand, Andrew Hayward (4th minute) converted a penalty corner while Dean Couzins (22nd) scored through a penalty stroke, before the Koreans pulled one back as Nam Yong Lee converted a penalty stroke just before the final hooter.

Asian Games gold medallists Korea, who had started off well holding Germany to a 2-2 draw in their lung opener, wasted as many as seven penalty corners Friday.

The fleet-footed Koreans carried out waves of attacks late in the game, but the New Zealand defence stood firm, with custodian Kyle Pontifex bringing off some fine saves.

“We won because we managed to stop the speedy Korean counter-attacks. We also defended well,” said New Zealand coach Shane McLeod.

After a goalless opening session that saw Canada defend dourly, the Dutch broke through their rivals’ defences to strike at will during a 22-minute post-breather spell.

The redoubtable Taeke Taekema (41st and 63rd) converted penalty corners twice to get the first and sixth goals for his team and take his individual World Cup tally to 19 spread over three editions.

The 30-year-old has already scored half a dozen goals in the current tournament.

Rogier Hofman (48th and 26th) also scored two goals, while Ronald Brower (43rd) and Rob Reckers (53rd) struck once each for the Netherlands.

“The first half was very tough. We knew we needed time to break the opponents. In the second half they started to get tired and we got more open spaces to utilise,” Dutch coach Michel Van Der Heuvel said after the match.

The Dutch controlled proceedings from the start, but Canadian goalkeeper Metthew Peck stood firm, coming to his side’s rescue several times.

In the second session, Taekema opened the floodgates with a neat drag flick.

Nooijer, the most capped international in the tournament, was the livewire of the Dutch attacks and played the role of an attacking midfielder to perfection.

In the day’s last outing, Germany’s Martin Zwicker (5th minute) scored after a brilliant one-two with veteran Matthias Witthaus, but Argentina rallied back immediately scoring through Martin Lucas Vila.

Zwicker (14th) then converted a penalty corner and Witthaus’ increased the lead. Argentina refused to be dictated and Matias Enrique Paredes made it 3-2 through a penalty corner goal.

Germany began the second half with purpose, and Martin Haner slotted in the 51st minute. Argentina narrowed down the margin four minutes later through Pedro Ibarra. The Argentines then raided the German citadel with gusto but goalkeeper Tomas Juan Espinosa’s exceptional effort under the bar saved the day.

“We are happy with the result but not with the performance. Argentina played really well and it is going to be a tough match against the Netherlands,” said German coach Markus Weise.

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