ANTWERP - A dramatic late goal form Chris Ciriello gave Australia a 1-0 win over host nation Belgium to secure a first place finish at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Antwerp. "A bit of French flair", that was the verdict of Francois Sheefer, as France, who are ranked 18th in the world outplayed their higher-ranked rivals, Pakistan (10th) to record a seventh place finish.

Ireland kept their Olympic dreams very much alive with a 4-1 victory over Malaysia. The Green Machine got off to the best of starts with two quick goals from Kyle Good and then Peter Caruth, and despite a Malaysia fightback, the Ireland team remains on course to be the first team, in any sport, from Ireland to qualify for the Olympics since 1948.

Barry Middleton celebrated his 350th international appearance with a goal as Great Britain powered to a convincing 5-1 win over India to claim third place at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals.

“It’s been a good week”, said team captain Middleton, reflecting both on his milestone and the crucial fact that his team achieved qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games here in Antwerp.“Obviously it is nice to get 350 caps, but this was all about qualifying for the Olympics. Once we had done that, we had the chance to show how good a team we are. We did that against Australia without getting the win, but we wanted to finish the tournament off properly today and I think we went and did that.”

Australia’s Ciriello - who scored a hat-trick in the final of last year’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup - struck with a blistering overtime penalty corner drag-flick to give the Kookaburras a hard-earned win in a fantastic and hugely competitive match with the Red Lions.

Despite the defeat, it was a memorable day for Belgian captain John-John Dohmen, who played his 300th game for his country and was also named FINTRO Best Player. Australia’s Blake Govers, who celebrates his 19th birthday on Monday, was named as the HERO Best Young Player and also took the HERO Top Scorer Award with seven tournament goals. Ireland’s David Harte was named FINTRO Best Goalkeeper. Belgium came out firing at the start of a pulsating match, with a huge, largely Belgian crowd watching on in delight as Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter was forced into action on numerous occasions. The Kookaburras defence, marshalled by 2014 FIH Player of the Year Mark Knowles, held firm before an evenly contested but feisty second quarter ended goal-less.

The Australians had the better of the third and fourth quarters, with Red Lions keeper Vincent Vanasch making a brilliant reaction glove save from a Kiel Brown snapshot before a top class penalty corner block in the final minute in the match ahead of the most dramatic of finishes. With four seconds of the match remaining, a smart video referral from Jamie Dwyer resulted in a penalty corner with four seconds of the match remaining, with Chris Ciriello sending a rocket flick into the goal to win the match. “It was a great flick”, said Australia captain Mark Knowles after the match. “We put him under a lot of pressure and him, Blake Govers and Kieran Govers in this tournament have been really good. We want guys to step up at big moments and that was a really big moment, so well done to Chris for that.”

Belgian talisman John-John Dohmen said: “It was a really nice game. It has been a good tournament for us and for Australia as well, they had a really good game and their victory is well deserved. We tried everything, but we had a good tournament and that is the main thing. Pakistan fired the first shot in this seventh/eighth play-off match. M Toseeq's blistering penalty corner just flying past the upright. It was France however, who took the lead through Simon Brisac-Martin (13') after Martin Genestet ran the ball behind the Pakistan defence and slipped to his teammate.

Pakistan nearly got back into the game when M Ali flicked the ball past the French 'keeper Martin Zylbermann but M Waqas just failed to connect.

Moments later there was high drama as Mazhar Abbas in the Pakistan goal came out of his area and fouled Brisac-Martin. Abbas was dismissed from the field of play in his first appearance at the tournament. France doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time through Hugo Genestet. His shot rattled off the post into the goal.

The second half saw France create more of the chances, but Pakistan always looked potentially dangerous on the break. This proved true when the Green Shirts reduced the deficit through a fantastic reverse stick shot from Toseeq – the forward had been threatening to get on the score-sheet throughout the match.

Pakistan had a chance to equalise when they won a penalty corner but the subsequent shot was weak and cleared easily. "We wanted to finish well and show what we are capable of," continued Sheefer after the game. "It is what is expected of us I think – sometimes we can play brilliantly, sometimes not so much, it is like our rugby and football teams. We will go to the European Championships with confidence and we will aim to finish top two in our pool."

Results

Final

Australia 1-0 Belgium

3rd/4th

Great Britain 5-1 India

5th/6th

Ireland 4-1 Malaysia

7th/8th

France 2-1 Pakistan

Final standings

1 Australia

2 Belgium

3 Great Britain

4 India

5 Ireland

6 Malaysia

7 France

8 Pakistan

9 Poland

10 China