Bhubaneswar: To fight for the third place after losing a semi-final must be tough for teams that have prepared for months, nursing a dream of being crowned champions. To do so just a day after the defeat is a physical and mental ordeal.
Three-time world champions Australia overcame this struggle – after losing a nerve-wracking semi-final to the Netherlands – to hammer England 8-1 and clinch the Hockey World Cup bronze medal here on Sunday.
Tom Craig (9’, 19’, 34’), who scored a hat-trick, Blake Govers (8’), Trent Mitton (32’), Tim Brand (34’) and Jeremy Hayward (57’, 60’) were on the scoresheet for Australia. Barry Middleton (45’) scored the consolatory goal for England.
Australia, before this match, had won seven of their 10 World Cup matches against England. This asymmetrical head-to-head record reflected right from the first quarter: the Aussies were all over England. Their attack bulldozed into the English defence, which appeared its weakest throughout the tournament.
In the eighth minute, Blake Govers put Australia ahead with his 149th goal. He trapped a pass from half-line, stepped inside the England circle and tomahawked the ball into the side netting.
It took a minute for Australia to double their lead. Tim Brand, capitalising on a defensive error, stole the ball, entered the penalty circle and, from the end line, passed the ball to Tom Craig, who slotted it inside the net from the goalmouth.
Ten minutes later, Craig scored his second goal when he ran down straight from the 23-metre line and deflected Govers’s pass from the left flank into the net.
Only by a margin of few inches, England avoided going into the second half trailing 0-4. Two minutes ahead of the first-half’s finish, no defender intercepted Jake Whetton’s on-the-run pass straight down the middle to Govers at goalmouth. But the ball, fortunately for England, deflected away from the net after hitting the post.
The Australian defence, too, revealed a few fissures as it allowed England to enter its penalty circle through the centre. But England could manage just one shot on target and three circle entries in the first half.
Australia’s pace appeared to be too much for the jaded England side to keep up with. The Australians scored three times in the third quarter.
Trent Mitton’s goal off a penalty corner was Australia’s fourth. Within two minutes came the fifth and sixth off Tim Brand and Craig, who completed his hat-trick. By now, England were yelling, hitting the net, hitting the ground and showed all symptoms of a team imploding.
Barry Middleton’s goal just before the end of third quarter offered some solace for the handful of English fans in the stadium.
Jeremy Hayward then scored twice in the last quarter to worsen England’s evening.