Bhubaneswar: Two-time champions Australia firmly remained on course for a hat-trick of titles by becoming the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals of the men’s hockey World Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over England in a Pool B match here. World number 1 Australia scored three goals in the final quarter to register their second consecutive win in Pool B at the Kalinga Stadium.
The win took Australia to the top of Pool B with six points from two games and secured their place in the quarterfinals of the 16-team event. The Kookaburras became the first to seal a direct quarterfinal berth after China sprang yet another surprise by holding higher-ranked Ireland to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the other Pool B match.
Jin Guo scored from a penalty corner for China in the 43rd minute before Ireland’s Alan Sothern drew parity in the very next minute. The Kookaburras had earlier defeated Ireland 2-1 in their tournament opener, while China drew 2-2 with England.
While Australia will finish at the top of the pool, world number 17 China are placed second ahead of Ireland (1 point) and England (1). Australia play China in their last pool match on December 7, while England will be up against neighbours Ireland.
The battle between world’s number one side Australia and number 7 England witnessed a dull first quarter with both the teams struggling to make inroads into the rival citadel. The few forays both the teams made ended in no significant result.
England had the first shot at the goal in the 12th minute but Barry Middleton’s reverse hit was easily padded away by Australia keeper Tyler Lovell. It took Australia 21 minutes to create a real scoring chance in the form of back-to-back penalty corners but an alert George Pinner in front of England goal averted danger on both occasions.
Two minutes later, England came tantalizingly close to scoring when Phil Roper struck the left post. Blake Govers then came close for Australia two minutes from half time. After receiving the ball inside the box, he took a 360 degree turn to set up himself but his shot went just wide of the English goal.
England got their first penalty corner a minute away from half-time but wasted the chance as both the teams failed to break the deadlock in the opening two quarters. The game continued in the same vein after the change of ends as the third quarter witnessed just a penalty corner awarded to Australia, which went abegging.
After the barren three quarters, the Kookaburras looked a completely different side in the final 15 minutes of the game as they pumped in two goals in a span of four minutes to race to a 2-0 lead.
Whetton finally broke the deadlock in the 47th minute when he scored after receiving a pass from Tom Craig. Three minutes later, Govers doubled Australia’s lead by slamming from the top of the circle past England goalkeeper George Pinner.
Four minutes from the final hooter, Australia pumped in another goal through Corey Weyer whose reverse hit crashed into the England goal past Pinner.