THE HAGUE - Defending champion Australia Friday beat Argentina 5-1 at the Hockey World Cup and will face host nation the Netherlands in the men's final today (Saturday) while the women semi-finals on Thursday also produced the same Australia-Netherlands line-up for the final.

Australia win was never in doubt as the scored early and often in semifinal, with Kieran Govers drag-flicking in the first at 4 minutes and Jeremy Hayward scoring twice. "We just put the pressure on," said Hayward. "A couple of drag-flicks, good to get them away. Hope we can get some in the final as well." All Australia's goals came on penalty corners except Jacob Whetton's strike at 33 minutes, when he controlled a pass from Mark Knowles and fired it in from behind the penalty spot.

With the score at 5-0, Argentina's Gonzalo Peillat pulled one back for Argentina, also on a penalty corner. The Netherlands beat England 1-0 on a first-half penalty corner and will play their first World Cup final since winning their third and last title on home soil 16 years ago.

The Dutch dominated England, especially in the first half, when Mink van der Weerden showed why he's considered the best penalty corner specialist in the world with a score four minutes before halftime, high into the right corner. Half a dozen good chances were missed to put the game away, notably at 43 minutes when Rogier Hofman hit the post. With the score close, England began to threaten in the final 15 minutes. With a late penalty corner, drag-flick specialist Ashley Jackson's shot was blocked just as it left his stick in a daring charge by Dutch defender Sander de Wijn. Hayward said the prospect of playing the Dutch in front of a crowd of 15,000 orange fans Sunday was appealing. "They're always going to be cheering the home side, but we'll take it on," he said.

"I would prefer it to be Australia," said Netherland's coach Paul van Ass, explaining that he liked to play attacking hockey and Australia would always provide that sort of match. The match against England was certainly not so much to van Ass's liking. "They gave us the midfield, and I understand why," said the coach, "But I like to play more attacking hockey, and when it is like that, we can always concede a goal."

"It was a case of our strong defence facing their strong attack," said England midfielder Henry Weir. "Unfortunately they scored and we were unable to take advantage of our scoring opportunities." Those opportunities were far and few between, for both sides. Although the Netherlands forwards were in the England circle on plenty of occasions, they faced a wall of defence that stood really firm and, if they did breach the wall, then 'keeper George Pinner was on excellent form and made several high quality saves to keep his side in the game.”

Pinner said: "I'm gutted that we came so close. It's not about individual performance but the team's achievement over the tournament. Apart from the defeat against Australia we've not conceded many goals and that is an achievement. We've now got a very big game in Sunday's bronze medal match and we'll now focus on that."

That match will be against Argentina who were crushed by the reigning champions Australia 5-1 in the other semi-final. England coach Bobby Crutchley said: “We knew we had to keep it tight. We had to stop the free-flowing Dutch hockey which I thought we did pretty well. To restrict such a talented team to one goal was down to some excellent defending and some real heart and hard work. In the first half we struggled to play enough hockey going the other way. With the ball we weren’t good enough, which is something I’ve said throughout the tournament, but it’s where this team is. If we’re going to compete at the top we have to be better with the ball. I was worried after the first half that because we’d had to defend so much we’d run out of legs but in second half the boys played better hockey and came back into it.

We knew we had to keep it tight but the fine margins are what decide these games. We got the corners and we felt we were building some pressure on the Dutch which was part of the game plan but we couldn’t quite make it count.”