Hockey: Australia, France qualify for quarters from Pool B

New Delhi, Dec 8: Australia and France won their respective Pool B matches Sunday to qualify for the Hockey Junior World Cup quarterfinals at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here.

The 1997 champions Australia won their second match on the trot 2-0 against Spain while France won 3-2 in a thrilling encounter against Argentina to secure their last eight berths.

Australia, after their thumping 5-2 win over Argentina Friday, were all over Spain from the start but could not capitalise on their chances which included a series of penalty corners. Neither team could create a goal-scoring challenge and the break was reached 0-0.

Australia finally managed to break the deadlock in the 38th minute when skipper Daniel Beale scored in a messy scramble in the Spanish circle which goalkeeper Mario Fernandez Garin was unable to stop.

Spain immediately had a chance with a penalty corner, downgraded from a penalty stroke after a video referral, but Andrew Butturini was up to task in the Australian goal.

With most of the ball possession, Australia finally doubled the lead in the 63rd minute via Dylan Wotherspoon, who found space in the circle and clinically slotted the ball in to the target.

The Spaniards began a desperate final surge but the Australians proved too good for them till the hooter.

“The team did not play at their full potential. The boys managed to score in the second half. We need to take the next matches seriously and play good hockey going forward in the tournament,” said Australia coach Paul Gaudoin.

In the other Pool B match, France missed a penalty corner chance in the 20th minute and Argentina scored on a swift counter-attack through Estanislao Perez Pesado, who was left unmarked in the circle.

France came back in the 25th minute when Pieter Van Straaten put in a spectacular dive at the post to deflect the ball into the goal. They used their momentum to force a second penalty corner took the lead through Theophile Ponthieu.

Argentina came back on the buzzer with a penalty stroke which was duly converted by Gonzalo Peillat, sending the two teams 2-2 into the break.

The ‘Les Bleus’ went in to the lead in the 48th minute when Jean-Laurent Kieffer slotted in the most perfect reverse stick lob over the diving goalkeeper.

Buoyed by their fans, the French managed to cling to their lead, earning their second win of the competition.

Australia and France have entered the last eight with six points each while Argentina and Spain are yet to get off the mark.

Pool B results: Australia beat Spain 2-0, France beat Argentina 3-2.

IANS