England vs Australia
16th December, Sunday, 16:30 IST
Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
England take on familiar foes Australia in what should be an engrossing tussle for the bronze medal. After going down in contrasting manner in their respective semifinals, both teams will be aiming for a strong finish to their campaigns at the 2018 World Cup.
Having finished fourth in 2010 and 2014, England will be hoping to get third time lucky in their pursuit of securing a third-placed finish. However, an uphill task awaits them as defending champions Australia could be on the prowl following an agonising loss against Netherlands.
Australia, who had lifted the World Cup trophy in 2010 and 2014, were denied a hat-trick of titles after succumbing to the Dutch in a riveting penalty shootout during their semifinal on Saturday.
From 0-2, the Aussies had clawed their way back through goals from Tim Howard and Eddie Ockenden. The latter’s equalizer came just thirty seconds before the full time hooter. However, the Kookaburras lost to the brilliance of Netherlands goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak during the sudden-death phase in the shootout. Considering the resilient nature of their star players, they are likely to overcome the close defeat and arrive all guns blazing for the bronze medal match.
On the other hand, England’s dreams of a maiden World Cup triumph came to a grinding halt during a one-sided semifinal against Belgium. The Red Lions snared as many as six goals to pummel George Pinner’s troops at the Kalinga Stadium. With a medal at stake, there should be no shortage of motivation for the third-place match against their traditional sporting rivals.
When these two teams met in the group stages of the 2018 World Cup, it was Australia who had emerged victorious by a 3-0 margin.
Form Guide (most recent to oldest):
England: L W W W L (Reasonable form)
Australia: L W W W W (Excellent form)
Head to Head (since 2013):
Won by England: 2
Won by Australia: 7
Probable Starting XI:
George Pinner (Goalkeeper), Mark Gleghorne, Liam Sanford, Michael Hoare, Adam Dixon, Barry Middleton, David Ames, Ian Sloan (Captain), Will Calnan, Liam Ansell and David Condon
Tyler Lovell (Goalkeeper), Jeremy Hayward, Matt Dawson, Matthew Swann, Tim Howard, Eddie Ockenden (Captain), Tom Craig, Aran Zalewski, Blake Govers, Jake Whetton and Dylan Wotherspoon
My Dream XI
Goalkeeper: Tyler Lovell
George Pinner looked lackluster and conceded six goals in the semifinal clash against a strong Belgian strike-force. Tyler Lovell, who will undoubtedly be in a better frame of mind, is a fairly straightforward option under the bar. It has to be noted that Australia had gone with Andrew Charter during their penalty shootout against Netherlands.
Defence: Liam Sanford, Eddie Ockenden, Matt Dawson and Matthew Swann
At 22, Liam Sanford has looked a class apart in England’s backline. Unlike some of his fellow teammates, he has pace on his side and can cover tremendous distance to mark potent strikers.
The Big Three of the Australian defence – Eddie Ockenden, Matt Dawson and Matthew Swann – can be relied upon to thwart waves of attacks from the opposition forwards. Eddie Ockenden’s deft stick-work, coupled with a fatal error from the Dutch backline, helped Australia find a miraculous last-minute equaliser during the semifinal. Expect the Tasmanian to lead from the front for the Kookaburras.
Alternatives: Mark Gleghorne in place of Matt Dawson
Midfield: Barry Middleton, Ian Sloan, Jake Whetton and Aran Zalewski
With over 400 international caps, Barry Middleton is the most experienced player in the tournament. Although he has not quite lived up to expectations, the 34-year-old stalwart can rise to the occasion during the bronze medal game. Fellow England midfielder Ian Sloan has the capacity to orchestrate productive circle penetrations by feeding timely passes to the strikers.
Considering that he is at the peak of his powers, Jake Whetton has not been able to perform to his usual standards in the knockout stages of this tournament. However, he has an opportunity to make amends against England. The 27-year-old’s sublime passing and incisive movements should keep the opposition defenders on their toes.
Alternatives: Tom Craig in place of Ian Sloan
Forwards: Liam Ansell and Blake Govers
Even though he looked off-colour during the semifinal against Belgium, Liam Ansell’s consistency in the tournament has been among the bright spots for England. He has the skill-set to penetrate the Australian defence and add to his tournament tally of two goals.
With six goals, Blake Govers is tied second alongside Gonzalo Peillat in the list of leading goal-scorers in the 2018 Hockey World Cup. Having scored in the group match against England, he will back himself to draw level with Alexander Hendrickx’s tally in the third-place match.
Alternatives: Will Calnan in place of Liam Ansell
Captain: Blake Govers
Vice-captain: Barry Middleton
Player to watch out for: Jeremy Hayward
Jeremy Hayward’s steady defending could turn out to be effective against the England strikers. If Australia stick to their pattern of unfurling new variations, his drag-flicking prowess could come in handy during penalty corners.