Alex Mackay steers Australia to maiden semi-final berth at World Cup

Australia celebrate their win. Photo: FIH

Australia celebrate their win. Photo: FIH

THE quarter-finals of the fifth Men’s Indoor Hockey World Cup offered up four matches that showcased this exhilarating game in all its various styles of play.

Flamboyant and speedy; disciplined and defensive; dynamic and courageous; it was all there for the spectators at the Max-Schmeling-Halle to savour. 

At the end of the day's action, the final four to contest the World Cup are: Iran, Austria, Germany and Australia – which includes Nowra’s Alex Mackay.

For the Australia team this will be a debut performance at the semi-final stage of the Indoor Hockey World Cup – after they defeated Belgium 4-2 in the quarter-final.

This match, between the two lowest ranked teams among the eight quarter-finalists, was always going to be a cracker.

In the early phase however, it looked to be one-way traffic as Australia rushed to a 2-nil lead as, firstly Jack Hayes and then Jake Sherren, found a way past Jeremy Gucassoff in the Belgium goal. 

Australia have impressed throughout this competition with their route one style of attacking play but an equal willingness to get back and defend with energy.

It was a style that Belgium found hard to contend with in the opening minutes of play.

When the Red Lions did break into the Australia circle they found Benjamin Rennie alert and agile as he palmed away aerial attempts from Cedric Charlier and Gaetan Dykmans. 

Belgium knew they would need something special to get back into the game and that came from the stick of Tom De Groote.

His penalty corner drag flick rocketed into the top of the Australia goal and a new sense of energy began to take hold of the Belgium team. 

With 11 minutes left on the clock, this fascinating encounter changed direction again as Jack Hayes scored his second goal and Australia's third. Hayes found himself with just the keeper to beat, which he duly did. 

There were more twists in the story yet.

With three minutes to play, Belgium came back and made it 3-2 as Tanguy Zimmer added his name to the score-sheet. 

Throwing everything into the victory, Belgium removed their goalkeeper.

Australia got a break and somehow James Knee managed to dive and, with his body fully horizontal, he got a stick on the end of a pass to deflect it into the Belgium empty goal. 

Game over and Australia through to the semi-finals, where they will face Austria – while Germany and Iran will face-off in the other semi-final.

Shoalhaven Heads’ Kyah Gray and her Australian women’s team play Belarus in their quarter-final for a spot in the semi-final.

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