(Reuters) – Netherlands battled past two-time defending champions Australia in a penalty shootout to set up an all-European World Cup final against Belgium in Bhubaneswar, India on Saturday.
After the scores were level at 2-2 in regular time, the Dutch won 4-3 in the sudden death shootout.
Belgium had thrashed England 6-0 earlier on Saturday to reach their first World Cup final.
The Dutch looked in control when they took a 2-0 halftime lead, courtesy of goals from Glenn Schuurman and Seve van Ass.
Australia’s Tim Howard converted a penalty corner in the 45th minute to set up an intense finale before Eddie Ockenden equalised with less than 30 seconds left on the clock.
Both teams converted three of their opening five penalty shots before Jeroen Hertzberger handed the Dutch an advantage as he dribbled past goalkeeper Andrew Charter to find the net.
Netherlands keeper Pirmin Blaak then saved Daniel Beale’s shot to secure a place in Sunday’s World Cup final and end Australia’s dominance after their triumphs in 2010 and 2014.
The 2016 Olympic silver medallists Belgium took the lead against England in the eighth minute when Florent van Aubel’s cross was deflected in by striker Tom Boon.
Simon Gougnard, who had received news of his father’s death on the eve of the semi-final clash, made it 2-0 with a fierce shot after George Pinner parried a penalty corner flick.
Belgium coach Shane McLeod hailed Gougnard’s mental toughness after he shared the news that he had lost his father with the squad and went on to play in the game.
“We had words and he shared his news with the group and if anything it brought us closer together. It’s something that you don’t wish on anyone but it’s a circle of life,” McLeod said.
“He played for his father today and he played a fantastic game.”
A brace from Alexander Hendrickx through penalty corners, along with field goals from Cedric Charlier and Sebastien Dockier added further gloss to the scoreline.
It was England’s third straight World Cup semi-final defeat as they struggled to create chances at the Kalinga Stadium.
Thomas Briels-led Belgium improved on their previous best fifth-place finish achieved four years ago in The Hague.
In the last few years Belgium have built a reputation as a team with attacking flair but their displays in the tournament so far have shown they also boast a disciplined defensive unit.
With 2017 World Goalkeeper of the Year Vincent Vanasch, the Red Lions defence have conceded just five goals in six matches.
“It was really our big goal to be in the last game of the tournament and hopefully we can do one more step and play even better than today,” Briels said.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)