MUMBAI: France’s World Cup dreams in field hockey ended Wednesday as they lost to defending champions Australia 3-0 in the quarter-finals in Bhubaneshwar.
The Frenchmen, who came into the 16-team tournament ranked 20th in the world, won hearts after stunning Olympic champions Argentina 5-3 in the group stage.
But top-ranked Australia, who made their 12th consecutive semi-final entry in a World Cup, proved too good for the emerging French team who were undone by the speed and accuracy of the Kookaburras.
Australia skipper Aran Zalewski though heaped rich praise on his opponents for giving them a hard time at the Kalinga Stadium in the east Indian state of Odisha.
“It was a really tough match. Obviously France can be really proud of their efforts, I think they really played well and put up a great fight.
“They have really come strongly in the last couple of years,” Zalewski said after the win.
“Lucky we won only on penalty corners. Really clinical in that area,” said Zalewski, whose side is eyeing a third straight World Cup title after winning the trophy in 2010 and 2014.
Jeremy Hayward struck early with a perfectly executed penalty corner in just the fourth minute of the match and the Kookaburras maintained the 1-0 lead into the second quarter.
The Aussie lead was doubled in the 19th minute with Blake Govers converting another penalty corner to take his tournament goals to six.
Zalewski sealed his side’s victory with a third penalty corner conversion in the 37th minute.
France, who were making their first World Cup appearance in 28 years, put on a gritty show in their pool to make it to the knockout round where they beat 17th-ranked China 1-0.
“They have improved tremendously. I think they are ranked 20th in the world but I can honestly say that they have performed much higher than their rank,” said Zalewski.
“They put up a good show in this tournament, making it to the quarters and put up a competitive fight tonight,” he added.
Australia will now take on the winner of the quarter-final match between hosts India and the Netherlands slated for Thursday.
Germany will meet Belgium in another last-eight clash.
Earlier on Wednesday England edged out Argentina 3-2 to book a place in the semi-finals to be played this weekend.