Thursday, June 12, 2014

England will look for inspiration from Middleton-Jackson combo to breach Dutch wall

England men’s hockey team will have a tough battle on their hands when they lock horns with hosts the Netherlands in the men’s semifinal of the 2014 World Cup. The England outfit will no doubt, be high on confidence after scrapping past Belgium 3-2 in their crucial final league tie to sneak into the last-four stage when it appeared they were the underdogs going into that game against the 5th ranked Belgium given their ‘not-so-happening’ performance in the league phase until then.

To put it frankly, the Barry Middleton-led side did not quite live up to their world number four ranking. Their World Cup campaign did not really get off to a rousing start by any stretch of imagination as they were held to a 1-1 draw by 10th ranked Spain. They barely managed to avoid a draw against India with a late goal and were still not at their best in their 2-0 win over 13th ranked Malaysia. England’s morale was pounded by Australia, who handed them a crushing 5-0 defeat leaving them on the cusp of being shown the tournament exit door.

Belgium has been in red-hot form in the World Cup and they were expected to sail past England, but England really came hard at them in their final crucial tie and nosed them out 3-2 with the final goal coming four minutes from the final hooter.

England have recently played the Netherlands in the Ergo Masters Four Nation Tourney featuring Germany and Belgium and had lost 1-3 to the Dutch. But they will be looking for revenge for their 2-9 humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands in the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics, where they turned up as Great Britain, a game in which Roderick Weusthof and Billy Bakker slammed hat-tricks.

The Dutch have played like a well-oiled machine with the likes Valentin Verga, Robert Kemperman, Jeroen Hertzeberger, Billy Bakker in prime form, not to speak of drag-flick expert Mink van der Weerden. England will expecting for some ‘inspirational’ play from Barry Middleton and Ashley Jackson to spur the side. A win over the Netherlands is not beyond them, but it won’t be easy with the home crowd rooting for them.

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