Australia crowned World League Champions
11 December 2017
HOCKEY: The Kookaburras have claimed back-to-back FIH Men’s Hockey World League titles after a heart-stopping 2-1 win over Argentina in Monday morning’s (AEDT) decider in Bhubaneswar.
Blake Govers’ 58th minute drag flick clinched the win for the Australia, although the Kookaburras needed to withstand a late rally of pressure from the 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallists.
Earlier, Jeremy Hayward opened the scoring from a penalty corner in the 17th minute, but Argentina levelled within 60 seconds via Agustin Bugallo.
The result marks a significant milestone for the Kookaburras in their final game of 2017, ahead of a huge year where they will compete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the 2018 World Cup in India.
The triumph also means Australia will regain world number one status ahead of Argentina upon the next release of the FIH rankings.
Kookaburras captain Mark Knowles said: “It feels awesome. We came here wanting to play well and not knowing exactly where we were at, wanting to play the best teams in the world.
“It’s a pretty good advertisement for hockey when the number one team in the world plays the number two. The Olympic champions against a team that want to chase them now. I’m so happy.”
Australia edged the contest after a tight first quarter where Eddie Ockenden had the best chance with an angled shot which was saved by Argentina goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi.
The match came alive in the second term when Hayward put the Kookaburras ahead from the first penalty corner of the game with a drag flick to Vivaldi’s left.
Australia’s joy quickly turned when Juan Gilardi crashed a pass inside the shooting circle which Bugallo deflected for the equaliser.
Diego Paz and Lachlan Sharp both had chances before the main interval for either side, before Argentina heaped on the pressure in the third.
The Lions initially had a penalty stroke which was reversed upon review in the 32nd minute, before Tyler Lovell made a fine double save to deny Gonzalo Peillat and Nahuel Salis from a penalty corner.
Ockenden hit the crossbar on the stroke of half-time after an ambitious drive forward from Knowles.
Juan Lopez fired a good chance wide early in the last, before Australia made the breakthrough.
Govers won the penalty corner for Australia, before powering a clinical finish past Vivaldi’s left for the match winner.
Argentina won three late penalty corners but Lovell and Australia stood firm to clinch a famous triumph to end 2017 on a high.
Australia 2 (Hayward 17', Govers 58')
Argentina 1 (Bugallo 18')