The FIH Hockey World Cup 2023 is at its business end with four top-ranked teams clashing in the semi-finals. World no.1 Australia will take on fourth-ranked Germany in the first semi-final at 4:30 PM on Friday (January 27). In the 2nd semi-final of the day, defending champions Belgium will lock horns with world no.3 Netherlands in an all-European clash at 7 PM. The battle between world no.2 Belgium and the Netherlands would be a repeat of last edition’s title clash for a final spot.
High-flying Australia will be hoping to keep its winning streak intact against a resurgent Germany. Australia despite being a powerhouse has ebbed in the tournament. Though the mighty Australians have scored 24 goals so far, they have also escaped a few upsets. A major scare against Spain in the quarterfinals. Three-time champions faltered in the semifinal stage last time. But Australia making it to the semifinals in all last 12 editions is a testament to how difficult an opponent they are.
On the other hand, two-time champions Germany has hit a slump of late in terms of titles. The last time Germany won the World Cup was back in 2006. But the Germans had the toughest route to the semifinals. They were forced to play in the crossovers after finishing second in their pool. However, Germany did well to beat courageous England in the shootout and reach the semis.
Against a stubborn Germany, which has made a habit of scoring last-minute goals in major tournaments, the Australians will have to bring their top-level game to advance to their fifth final in six editions. Though Germany has a slender 21-20 record against Australia, they have been beaten in their last nine meetings. Germany last won against the Aussies back in 2014 Champions Trophy.
Of the four teams, three-time champions Netherlands had the easiest passage to the semifinals. The Netherlands would be eying for their third straight final. But the Dutch will face the toughest test in the form of reigning Olympic gold medalists Belgium. The Dutch have not faced much resistance from any opposition so far.
It will be a battle between the oldest and one of the youngest sides in the tournament. Belgium has 11 players above the age of 30 while the Netherlands has eight players below 25. In what will be a repeat of the World Cup 2018 final at the same venue, the Netherlands will look for revenge.