Birmingham: The Indian men’s hockey team’s route to the final at the 2022 Commonwealth Games here became easier as they will meet comparative lower-ranked South Africa in the semifinals after the latter qualified for the last-four stage ahead of New Zealand.
The Indian men secured their place in the semifinals with a comprehensive 4-1 victory against Wales Thursday which helped them top the standings as England finished with the same 10 points but with an inferior goal difference. England, needing to beat Canada by a 14-goal margin to top Pool B, could manage an 11-2 win, thus finishing second.
In Pool A, South Africa, ranked 13th in FIH World Rankings, caused a big upset when they defeated the 9th-ranked New Zealand 4-3 in their last preliminary league match. That took South Africa to seven points, leaving the Black Sticks tied with Pakistan on four points from one win, one draw and two defeats. Pakistan, thus had a chance of climbing to the second spot if they managed to beat top seed and six-time champions Australia by a two-goal margin.
But the Kookaburras were too strong for Pakistan and emerged a 7-0 winner, topping the group with an all-win record.
South Africa thus secured a place in the semifinals, the second time they will be playing in the last-four stage after the 2002 edition at Manchester.
South Africa will now meet India in the semifinal on Saturday while World No. 1 Australia will meet England in the other semifinal.
On paper, it would be easier for India to beat South Africa in the semifinals than New Zealand. Not only are they lower ranked than India but the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallists had beaten them in both their matches in the FIH Pro League late last year.