On a day that began with scope for a big name casualty, the big-four showed just why they are where they are as the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Australia did what they had to secure semi-final spots.
The Netherlands were the first to go through, but not without a little waver. Muhammad Imran’s thunderbolt had Pakistan in the lead by the break but Mathijs Brouwer nurdled home in the 41st minute and Taeke Taekema’s double made the run in comfortable. Adnan Maqsood’s beautiful deflection provided a brief scare but Jeroen Hertzberger produced something a bit special to seal top spot in Pool A with a 4-2 win.
Germany were next to qualify, ending New Zealand’s outside hopes. Timo Wess dragged in early on before Matthias Witthaus got a second contender for the goal of the tournament for the day with an outrageous deflection from the top of the D. Witthaus was brilliant all game and this was a just reward.
The Kiwis created some great chances through Simon Child and Hayden Shaw pulled one back but an inventive corner from Florian Keller killed off the New Zealand challenge.
It meant Spain needed to avoid defeat against the lively Koreans to reach the last four. The Asians, though, seemed paralysed by the pressure and Santi Freixa used it to his advantage to put away another cracker.
In the second half, Freixa got his second and Korea’s realistic chances were done despite getting a foothold in the game. Quico Cortes pulled off spectacular saves, keeping his net intact until Sung Hoon Yoon sank a consolation goal with less than two minutes to go.
The final place was taken up by Australia in a thriller against GB. The place was never in doubt as the underdogs needed an eight-goal advantage to advance.
Barry Middleton touched in Jonty Clarke’s cross. Experienced duo Bevan George and Jamie Dwyer swung the game the Aussies way but Richie Mantell flicked in before Rob Moore blasted in a third before Ockenden’s late heart-breaker ended hopes of a memorable win.
With the major positions decided, there was some other great drama on offer. Canada got their first win, beating South Africa 5-3, with both sides playing the game short-handed for long periods with five yellows and a red-card dished out.
Austin Smith got two goals in the game to go with two yellows for South Africa, his first in the fifth minute. Veteran Rob Short equalised, Smith spent his first time in the bin with Canada’s Anthony Wright following him soon after.
Lungile Tsolelile got SA ahead again, Wayne Fernandes netted twice along with Conor Grimes building a 4-2 Canadian lead. Smith got his second before Clyde Abrahams saw red, lashing out. Bindi Kullar and Smith followed leaving huge spaces in the last ten minutes, giving Grimes all the time in the world for an easy fifth in the last minute.
In the last game of the day, Belgium recovered from a 1-0 deficit to beat China with Eckinger, Truyens and Dohmen to win 3-1.
It sees the play-off matches looking like this:
Thursday, August 21 (All Irish time)
9/10 place (1.30am) Belgium vs Canada
7/8 place (4am) New Zealand vs Pakistan
Semi-final (11am) Netherlands vs Germany
Semi-final (1.30pm) Spain vs Australia
Saturday August 23
11/12 (1.30am) China vs South Africa
5/6 (4am) Korea vs Great Britain
Bronze medal match (11am)Gold medal match (1.30pm)