Australia ends France's dream run in hockey World Cup

Australia's captain Aran Zalewski (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against France during their field hockey quarterfinal match at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar Wednesday. — AFP

BHUBANESHWAR, India — France's World Cup dreams in field hockey ended Wednesday as it lost to defending champion Australia 3-0 in the quarterfinals here.

The Frenchmen, who came into the 16-team tournament ranked 20th in the world, won hearts after stunning Olympic champion Argentina 5-3 in the group stage.

But top-ranked Australia, which made its 12th consecutive semifinal entry in a World Cup, proved too good for the emerging French team which was undone by the speed and accuracy of the Kookaburras.

Australia skipper Aran Zalewski though heaped rich praise on his opponents for giving them a hard time at the Kalinga Stadium in the east Indian state of Odisha.

"It was a really tough match. Obviously France can be really proud of their efforts, I think they really played well and put up a great fight.

"They have really come strongly in the last couple of years," Zalewski said after the win.

"Lucky we won only on penalty corners. Really clinical in that area," said Zalewski, whose side is eyeing a third straight World Cup title after winning the trophy in 2010 and 2014.

Jeremy Hayward struck early with a perfectly executed penalty corner in just the fourth minute of the match and the Kookaburras maintained the 1-0 lead into the second quarter.

The Aussie lead was doubled in the 19th minute with Blake Govers converting another penalty corner to take his tournament goals to six.

Zalewski sealed his side's victory with a third penalty corner conversion in the 37th minute.

France, which was making its first World Cup appearance in 28 years, put on a gritty show in its pool to make it to the knockout round where it beat 17th-ranked China 1-0.

"They have improved tremendously. I think they are ranked 20th in the world but I can honestly say that they have performed much higher than their rank," said Zalewski.

"They put up a good show in this tournament, making it to the quarters and put up a competitive fight tonight," he added.

Australia will now take on the winner of the quarterfinal match between host India and the Netherlands slated for Thursday.

Germany will meet Belgium in another last-eight clash.

Earlier Wednesday England edged out Argentina 3-2 to book a place in the semifinals to be played this weekend. — AFP