BHUBANESWAR, India: Goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak helped the Netherlands set up a title clash with Belgium in the field hockey World Cup after edging out Australia 4-3 on penalties yesterday.
Blaak was on top of his game throughout the semi-final, producing a match-winning save in sudden-death to deny Australia a chance of clinching their third successive title after they won in 2010 and 2014.
The match was level at 2-2 after world number one Australia claimed an equaliser 26 seconds from full-time at the Kalinga Stadium in the east Indian state of Odisha.
Both teams scored three goals each in the penalty shoot-out but as the match went to sudden-death, the Netherlands - shooting first - scored while the Kookaburras missed the goal after Blaak got the ball away with his stick.
It will be the Netherlands’ record seventh final and they have the chance to claim their fourth World Cup title.
“Really happy that we won... When it came down to the final one I had to make a decision and got the sweep,” said Blaak.
“Conceding a goal 26 seconds before the end of the game is something really terrible and but (we) turned it back,” he said.
In the first semi-final Belgium thrashed England 6-0, with Simon Gougnard scoring a goal after his father died on the eve of the crucial clash.
Olympic silver medallists Belgium, who had beaten two-time champions Germany in the quarter-finals, came out all guns blazing with Tom Boon giving them an early lead in the eight minute of the match.
In an emotional moment for Gougnard, he doubled his team’s early lead in the 19th minute with a penalty corner conversion.
Alexander Hendrickx also got two, helping him to a lead in the tournament top scorers list with seven goals so far.
“We are just really proud at what happened. We played in the honour of (the) father of Simon who suddenly passed away yesterday,” Boon, who was named man-of-the-match, said after the win.
“We did it again today and in the quarter-finals and it is going to be one more step in tomorrow’s game. We just have to put another great performance and hope we can win.”
For England, their semi-finals jinx continued as they lost their third successive last-four clash in the World Cup.
They will play Australia in the third-place play off today.