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In-form Dutch eye semi-final berth

Source: PTI
March 04, 2010 20:07 IST
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The Netherlands, a strong contender for the World Cup title, will aim to maintain a clean slate by beating lowly Canada in Pool A and book a semi-final berth in the hockey World Cup in New Delhi on Friday.

The Netherlands, ranked fourth in the world, have beaten Argentina 3-0 and New Zealand 3-1 comfortably in their earlier matches.

With the form they are in, it is unlikely that Canada could pose too much of a problem for the Dutch, three-times World Cup champions.

On the other hand, a defeat against the Netherlands would shut the semi-final door on Canada, who lost their previous matches against New Zealand (2-3) and Germany (0-6).

The two sides have met once in a World Cup match in 1998 when the Dutch won 3-1. Their last meeting was at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in which the Netherlands were victorious 4-2.

The Dutch have been clinical so far in the tournament with penalty-corner specialist Taeke Taekema in superb form having scored four goals - all from his drag flicks – to lead the tournament goal-scoring chart.

Captain Teun de Nooijer, in his fifth World Cup appearance, has been the live wire for his side and would look to find the target as he is yet to score in the tournament.

For Canada, any hopes of an improbable upset would hinge on 37-year-old Rob Short, the oldest player in this World Cup and part of the FIH 2009 All Star Team.

In the other two Pool A matches, South Korea and defending champions Germany will look to beat their respective opponents to bolster their semi-final chances.

The results of the two matches will make it clear who would remain in contention for semi-final spot and who will be shown the door from a relatively easier Pool A.

If South Korea and Germany win their respective matches against New Zealand and Argentina, they will get seven points from three matches with two wins and a draw.

If that happens, the Netherlands, South Korea and Germany will fight for two semi-final places, while Argentina will be out of contention.

New Zealand, who have beaten Canada 3-2 in their opening match, will have a theoretical chance to reach the semi-final but unlikely to do it as they are yet to play Germany and the Netherlands.

However, history favours New Zealand against South Korea as the former have won four matches, losing one and drawing one in their earlier six encounters in the World Cup.

But in the current form, the nippy Koreans, ranked fifth in the world and had finished third in the six-team elite 2009 Champions Trophy in Australia, have the edge over eighth-ranked New Zealand.

The Koreans have also drawn the mighty Germans 2-2 in their first match.

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