World no. 4 Netherlands broke Australia's dream of clinching a hat-trick of World Cup titles, beating the two-time defending champions 4-3 in sudden death in a pulsating semi-final of men hockey's show-piece tournament. The Dutch thus took a sweet revenge of their 1-6 loss to the Kookaburras in the summit clash of the 2014 World Cup at the Hague. The match went into shoot-out after both Netherlands and Australia were locked 2-2 at the end of regulation 60 minutes. Glenn Schuurman (9th minute) and Seeve van Ass (20th) scored for the Dutch before Tim Howard (45th) converted a penalty corner and Eddie Ockenden (60th) found the equaliser for Australia just 26 seconds from the final hooter. In the shoot-off, Daniel Beale, Tom Craig and Jake Whetton scored for Australia while Jeroen Hertzberger, Van Ass and Thijs van Dam were on target for the Dutch to take the encounter into sudden death. But it was not to be Australia's day, as Beale's attempt was saved by Dutch goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak after Hertberger scored to take Netherlands to their second consecutive World Cup final.
Netherlands will face Olympic silver medallist Belgium in Sunday's summit clash after the Red Lions spanked England 6-0 in the other semi-final earlier in the day. World no.1 Australia will look for a consolation bronze medal when they take on England in the third-fourth place play-off match on Sunday.
Netherlands took time to get off the blocks as Australia did all the attacking in the initial few minutes but without much success. After sitting back initially, the Dutchmen got into the groove slowly and had the first real scoring chance in the fourth minute through a penalty corner but Mnk van der Weerden's flick was kept away by Australia goalkeeper Andrew Charter. Netherlands kept up the pressure on the Australian defence and minutes later took the lead through Schuurman, who scored from close range after being set up by Jonas de Gues' brilliant run down the right flank.
Three minutes from the end of first quarter, Mirco Pruijser's deflection from Netherlands skipper Billy Bakker's long ball down the middle hit the post. Three minutes into the second quarter, Australia earned their first penalty corner but wasted it. Netherlands and Australia traded one more penalty corner each in the next few minutes but both the teams failed to convert the chances.
Van Ass doubled Netherlands' lead after his shot from right corner of the box went into the goal following a deflection from Australian Tim Howard's stick. Trailing by two goals, the Australians came out with purpose after the change of ends as they attacked in numbers in search of breakthroughs.
The Dutch too matched their rivals stick for stick as the game witnessed an end-to-end battle. Australia pulled a goal back just at the stroke of third quarter through Howard who scored from a penalty corner after their variation went wrong. Netherlands goalkeeper Blaak had a wonderful match, inflicting brilliant saves now and then to deny the Australians.
In the 53rd minute, an alert Blaak came up with a wonderful reflex save to keep out Flynn Ogilivie's diving effort and then five minutes later the Dutch keeper made another stunning save to deny Blake Govers from Australia's fourth penalty corner.
But the Australians did not give up hope and fought till their last breath, which resulted in getting the equaliser just 26 seconds from full time through Ockenden and take the match into shoot-out.