Reigning champions Australia have progressed to the 2018 FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup semi-finals with a dominant 3-0 victory over France in their quarter-final in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday night.
First-half drag flicks from Jeremy Hayward and Blake Govers put the world number one Kookaburras in control at half-time against the plucky French, who are ranked 20th in the world.
Man of the Match Aran Zalewski sealed the win in the third quarter, rounded out a fine penalty corner variation with a cool finish.
Australia were good value for the victory, winning all key statistics with 23-17 circle penetrations, 6-4 shots and 5-1 penalty corners, with three of those converted by the Kookaburras.
The result means Australia will play either hosts India or the Netherlands in the semi-finals on Saturday night.
The victory also keeps the Kookaburras’ hopes of a third straight World Cup title alive, although Zalewski insisted that wasn’t on their minds.
“To be honest we haven’t really thought about it,” Zalewski said. “We’ve just been taken it each match at a time.
“This is a new group. We’ve got nine or 10 guys making their World Cup debut so it’s not like we’ve actually won a World Cup.
“That’s what we’re trying to do. We’ll try to take that into semis.”
Australia will learn their semi-final opponent when India take on the Netherlands from 12:30am AEDT on Friday morning.
The Kookaburras almost took the lead inside the first 60 seconds when Flynn Ogilvie’s shot hit the post.
Three minutes later, Australia went ahead from a short corner with Jeremy Hayward’s drag flick taking a slight deflection to beat France goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry.
Australia hit the woodwork again in the seventh minute when Jake Whetton’s low shot beat Thieffry to his right but not the post.
World Cup top scorer Govers added Australia’s second in the 19th minute after winning a penalty corner which he emphatically shot low past Thieffry.
Thieffry did well to thwart Australia moments later when he cut out 150-gamer Trent Mitton’s cutback with Ogilvie and Daniel Beale waiting at the back post.
France had their best attack in the 23rd minute when Timothee Clement released Aristide Coisne who beat Australia keeper Tyler Lovell but his goalbound shot was cleared short of the line by the back-tracking Hayward.
Australia added the third after Mitton successfully referred a non-decision to win a penalty corner, where Govers laid off for Matt Dawson to find Zalewski in space for a lofted finish from close range.
Both sides traded green cards in the final quarter as the chances dried up with Australia content to seal their spot in the final four for the 11th consecutive World Cup.
The victory over France also keeps the Kookaburras’ record-breaking World Cup match winning streak going with 17 triumphs in a row.