NEW DELHI: Defending champions Germany played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with the Netherlands on Sunday to throw open the semi-final race in the men’s field hockey World Cup.
Dutch skipper Teun de Nooijer scored the equaliser four minutes before the final whistle to help his team share the points in a crucial group A match at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
With the last round of league matches on Tuesday, the Netherlands lead the group with 10 points, followed by Germany on eight, South Korea on seven and New Zealand on six.
The Dutch need a draw against the Koreans to take one of the two semi-final spots from the group. A Korean win could see the Asian champions advance.
Germany must secure full points from New Zealand to confirm their place, while the Black Sticks also need to win and hope the other results go their way.
European champions England have already taken a semi-final place from group B with Australia the favourites to grab the second spot.
The Netherlands led Germany 1-0 at half-time after Wouter Jolie deflected in his team’s third penalty corner in the 23rd minute.
The Germans, seeking a hat-trick of World Cup titles to add to their Olympic gold medal won at Beijing, hit back with goals from Oliver Korn in the 43rd minute and Jan-Marco Montag in the 63rd.
As the minutes ticked away, de Nooijer pounced on a pass from the right and pushed the ball in past a stunned German goalkeeper Tim Jessulat.
“Its always good to get one point, rather than lose three,” said de Nooijer. “We were lucky to get that chance and took it. But we have to play well against the Koreans to make the semis.”
German captain Max Muller said he was disappointed to share points.
“Great game, but wish we had won,” he said. “We now have to wait till our last match to see how it goes.
“Australia are still the favourites to win the title. Winning a third time is not on our minds. Its a young team and I am glad we are playing good hockey.”
Earlier, Jang Jong-Hyun scored three goals as South Korea routed lowly Canada 9-2 to keep their semi-final hopes alive. Nam Hyun-Woo and You Hyo-Sik chipped in with two goals apiece for South Korea as the Asian champions ran circles around the hapless Canadian defence in the high-scoring match.
The second half produced nine goals, two of them to Canada’s Philip Wright, after the Koreans led 2-0 at the interval.
“We needed this win badly and I am happy it all came together today,” said Korean coach Shin Seok-Kyo.
“It will take a lot from our side, and also our rivals, to ensure we make it to the semi-finals. We can only control what we do and that is to beat the Dutch.”
New Zealand’s chances of making the knock-out round suffered a setback when they lost 1-0 to Argentina in another group A match.
New Zealand, who would have moved to nine points had they beaten Argentina, paid dearly for a missed penalty stroke by Ryan Archibald three minutes before the interval.
Argentina, beaten in their three previous games, earned the winner in the 55th minute through Facundo Callioni, who diverted in a pass from the right by Pedro Ibarra.
“Its disappointing to lose such a crucial game,” said New Zealand captain Dean Couzins.
“We knew this could be a vital match and that is how it turned out. We tried our best in the end to get the equaliser, but missed a few chances.
“It now all boils down to other games, but we still need to overcome the Germans.”