Tuesday, 10 June 2014 | MYT 5:48 PM
Lucky English squeeze into semis
Belgium’s Elliot van Strydonck (left) goes for the ball with England’s Nick Catlin (right) during their Group A. England won 3-2 to move into the semi-finals. - EPA
THE HAGUE: England scored a late penalty to earn a hard-earned 3-2 win over European rivals Belgium in a thrilling Group A match to reach the hockey World Cup semi-finals at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Holland.
England will now play favourites Holland in Friday’s semi-finals while Belgium will go into the fifth placing playoff against either Germany or New Zealand on Sunday.
Belgium went into Monday’s final group match with nine points compared to England’s seven and needed just a draw to reach the last four.
The Belgians showed they meant business by grabbing the lead after 13 minutes through Thomas Briels. But England fought back and were back on level teams, thanks to Nick Catlin’s strike in the 19th minute.
In the second half, world No. 4 England went ahead with Ashley Jackson scoring a field goal in the 39th minute.
But Tanguy Cosyns gave the Belgians, whose best placing was eighth in the 1973 edition, a lifeline in the 63rd minute with the equaliser.
After the goal, the match was played at a frantic pace with both teams in attack mode.
It was England who got lucky. In the 66th minute, they earned a penalty stroke when their penalty corner attempt hit Belgium’s Xavier Reckinger on the foot. Iain Lewers held his nerve to slot the ball home.
England goalkeeper George Pinner was delighted with the win.
“The real England was on show today … and this team will turn up against Holland in the semis,” said Pinner.
Belgian coach Marc Lammers said England played a good game and managed to outwit them.
“The English were very clever with their game plan ... Their key players played well and our players didn’t reach their top level.
“We had to change our midfield when Felix Denayer left the pitch. But we could have done better with the several chances that we had up front,’ he added.