Barry Middleton inspired England to the semi-finals of the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup with a thrilling victory over Argentina.
The midfielder produced his best performance of the tournament so far, scoring once, assisting another and producing an incredible block on the line to ensure his side kept their World Cup journey alive.
Will Calnan and Harry Martin were also on the scoresheet for England – for whom Michael Hoare won his 100th cap – while Gonzalo Peillat’s two corners were not enough to see his side to victory.
Despite the obvious threat the reigning Olympic champions offered, Liam Ansell said his team were perfectly prepared for the game and firmly believed they would come out on top.
The Man of the Match said: “I’m ecstatic. We knew it would be a tough match, they have the number one corner threat in the tournament so stopping them was crucial.
“But we knew if we waited for our opportunities, stopped them from getting on the front foot and blocked their corners we’d have a good chance.
“We’ve got a few young guys who have come in and shone during this tournament. We’ve been talking before games about our mentality going into it, being in the right headspace and it’s working. I’m really looking forward to the next match.”
Argentina took the lead against the run of play in the 17th minute, Peillat’s flick bouncing into the goal off a desperately unlucky George Pinner after Luke Taylor saw two corners charged down.
Juan Vivaldi then produced two fine saves from Zach Wallace and Phil to maintain their advantage but there was nothing he could do to stop Middleton’s laser-like equaliser.
Pinner then had to react quickly to block Matias Paredes as the klaxon sounded at the end of an intriguing first half, while Ansell produced a rare scuff on the reverse in the 32nd minute.
England spent five minutes down to 10 players in the third period but Argentina couldn’t take advantage, the closest they came being a slap from Ignacio Ortiz that Pinner easily saved.
But in the dying moments of the quarter Calnan pounced after Middleton’s aerial was mis-controlled, the ball falling at the feet of the midfielder who fired in a rocket for his second goal in as many games.
Peillat brought his team level once again from another corner in the 48th minute but just seconds later England were in front again through Martin, finishing the move he started with a brilliant run by nudging the ball past Vivaldi.
Argentina pressed hard for the equaliser but Ansell almost scored the goal of the tournament on the counter, scything through the defence but his diving shot smacked the post.
A kicking back was employed for the final four minutes but there was to be no way through for Argentina as England secured their place in a third successive World Cup semi-final.
They will take on either Belgium or Germany on Saturday 15 December live on BT Sport.