Minnows France stunned Olympic champions Argentina 5-3 to cause the biggest upset of the tournament in their must-win last Pool A match and book a place in the knock-out stage of the men’s hockey World Cup here on Thursday. After New Zealand and Spain played out a 2-2 draw earlier in the day, world no. 20, the lowest ranked side in the competition, France needed an outright win to qualify for the cross-overs and they came out with intent to achieve the goal.
France ended their pool engagements on the second spot behind toppers Argentina (6 points) on four points on account of a better goal difference than New Zealand (4 points). France secured the second spot with a goal difference of +1 as against New Zealand’s -2 (minus 2).
Spain will have to pack their bags and leave early as they have been eliminated from the tournament. As per the format of the tournament, the top four teams from four pools will directly qualify for the quarterfinals while the second and third placed sides will play cross-over matches against teams of other pools for the remaining four last eight berths.
In the last Pool A match, France scored four field goals through Hugo Genestet (18th minute), Aristide Coisne (26th), Gaspard Baumgarten (30th) and Francois Goyet (54th), while the other goal came from a penalty corner conversion by skipper Victor Charlet (23rd). World no. 2 Argentina’s goals came from the sticks of Lucas Martinez (28th) and two penalty corner strikes from Gonzalo Peillat (44th, 48th).
Earlier, New Zealand fought back two goals down to hold Spain to a 2-2 draw in their penultimate Pool A match and qualify for the knock-out stages of the World Cup here. World no. 8 Spain scored two field goals in the opening two quarters through Albert Beltran (9th minute) and Alvaro Iglesias (27th) to go into the halfway break with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
But the Black Sticks made a stupendous comeback in the final 10 minutes of the game and scored through Hayden Phillips (50th) and Kane Russell (56th) to share the spoils and secure their place in the cross-over round of the tournament.
It was the Black Sticks who had the first shy at the goal in the sixth minute but Hugo Inglis strike from close range was saved by Spain captain and goalkeeper Quico Cortes. But it was Spain who struck first when Beltran scored from a through ball from Pau Quemada. Thereafter both the teams made a couple of good moves but they lacked the final touch inside the box.
Spain earned their first penalty corner in the 25th minute but failed to utilise the opportunity. They extended their lead in the 27th minute when Iglesias scored from close range in the midst of a crowd of Black Sticks from a Ricardo Santana feed.
After an uneventful third quarter, New Zealand pulled a goal back in the 50th minute through Phillips, who received a pass from Inglis on the left side and took his time to smash it into the roof of the net.
Pumped up by the goal, New Zealand went all out in search of the equaliser and four minutes from the final hooter their efforts bore fruit when Russell found the back of the net from the Black Sticks only penalty corner of the match.