Hockey: England secure semi-final spot at the World Cup
With the 2012 London Olympics just around the corner, it appears Great Britain’s hockey team will be strong candidates to claim an historic medal in front of a partisan crowd.
Both the men’s and women’s squads enjoyed a successful Euro Nations Championships last August, claiming the gold and bronze medals respectively. It has led to an increasing belief that this current crop of stars could be set to eclipse the achievements of past heroes when they join with their peers from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to compete under the guise of the United Kingdom in the forthcoming London Games.
Indeed at the 1988 Seoul Games, Great Britain claimed a memorable gold medal, their first for over sixty years. Coached by David Whitaker, he masterminded their victory over arch rivals West Germany in the final 3-1.
This week’s Hockey World Cup has seen England’s men thrive in the warmer Indian climate.
England approached last night’s final pool game against India on the back of scintillating form. They were unbeaten in their previous three games after overcoming Australia, South Africa and Pakistan to slot in behind the Aussies in Group B.
They improved on this position with a dominant display against the hosts, winning 3-2 to ensure an automatic passage into semi-finals. It is now likely that England will compete against Germany or Holland for a place in a final.
The tourists were greeted by a high octane atmosphere in Delhi. India’s opening game victory against bitter rivals, Pakistan, had ensured the tournament commenced on a joyous note and the raucous support has been present ever since.
However, a 16th minute strike from James Tindall managed to momentarily quell the boisterous home crowd. India threatened on occasion but in truth England were in uncompromising mood with their ‘keeper, James Fair, striking an imposing figure in goal.
In the second half, from a penalty-corner, Ashley Jackson elevated his shot past India’s D’Souza to cement England’s lead. The same player then added a third to secure his nation’s passage into the semi-finals.
India did mount a late comeback though thanks to goals from Gurwinder Singh and Rajpal Singh. The brace ignited the Indian supporters who continued to produce a carnival atmosphere, the stadium awash with colourful flags.
But it failed to spur the host nation on to an equaliser as England held firm and secured their fourth straight victory in the tournament. It is the first time England have progressed into the last four since 1986 where they succumbed to Australia in the final.