Japan qualified for the FIH Hockey World League semi-finals with a 100% win record in the fourth and final men’s round 2 tournament in Elektrostal, Russia. The world number 16 outfit, who were assured of a berth in the HWL semi-finals after registering their fourth straight win on Friday, had to battle their way past Austria 4-2.
Austria surprised Japan with an impressive display, taking a 2-1 half-time lead before the Asian side rebounded in a superb manner.
Patrick Schmidt converted a penalty corner to give the Austrians the lead before Toshiro Tachibana restored parity for the Samurai off a short corner.
Dominik Monghy once again gave Austria the lead close to half-time even as Japan were guilty of frittering away a number of scoring chances, even showing their profligacy in short corners.
Toshiro Tachibana was in the thick of things drawing level early in the second period.
Japan struck two telling blows in the dying moments through Shinji Kawauchi and Manabu Hatakeyama to pull off a 4-2 win.
Japan were joined in the HWL semi-finals by France by virtue of being the second highest ranked side in the last two men’s round 2 events.
Hosts Russia, who could have only qualified by taking the top spot, were never in the hunt as Japan leapfrogged to the points table midway through the tournament. However, they scripted a consolation 5-3 victory over Czech Republic.
Ukraine got the better of Egypt 1-0 in a shootout after both teams were locked 2-2 in regulation time.
The winner of the fourth and final men’s FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament will join Olympic champions Germany, Asian giants South Korea and Argentina in Pool A of the second semi-final to be held at Johor Bahru.
The Pool B of the Johor Bahru event would comprise England, South Africa, Pakistan and hosts Malaysia.
The team finishing second in the fourth and final men’s FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament in Elektrostal would join Olympic bronze medallists Australia, Belgium and Spain in Pool A in the first semi-final to be held at Rotterdam.
The Pool B of the Rotterdam event features hosts and Olympic silver medallists the Netherlands, India, New Zealand and Ireland.
Earlier, Belgium and hosts France qualified for the semi-final stage from the third FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in Saint-Germain near Paris,
10th ranked Argentina and 12th ranked South Africa qualified from the second FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
9th ranked India and 15th ranked Ireland made it to the Hockey World League (HWL) semi-finals from the first FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in New Delhi.