BHUBANESWAR - World no 4 Netherlands broke Australia’s dream of clinching a hat-trick of World Cup titles, beating the two-time defending champions 4-3 in sudden death in a pulsating semi-final of men hockey’s showpiece tournament here on Saturday.

In other semifinal, England’s dream of reaching a first men’s Hockey World Cup final in 32 years was ended in emphatic fashion by a 6-0 defeat to Belgium.

The Dutch took a sweet revenge of their 1-6 loss to the Kookaburras in the summit clash of the 2014 World Cup at the Hague. The match went into shoot-out after both Netherlands and Australia were locked 2-2 at the end of regulation 60 minutes.

Glenn Schuurman (9th minute) and Seeve van Ass (20th) scored for the Dutch before Tim Howard (45th) converted a penalty corner and Eddie Ockenden (60th) found the equaliser for Australia just 26 seconds from the final hooter. In the shoot-off, Daniel Beale, Tom Craig and Jake Whetton scored for Australia while Jeroen Hertzberger, Van Ass and Thijs van Dam were on target for the Dutch to take the encounter into sudden death.

But it was not to be Australia’s day, as Beale’s attempt was saved by Dutch goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak after Hertberger scored to take the Netherlands to their second consecutive World Cup final. The Netherlands will face Olympic silver medallist Belgium in Sunday’s summit clash after the Red Lions spanked England 6-0 in the other semi-final earlier in the day. World no1 Australia will look for a consolation bronze medal when they take on England in the third-fourth place play-off match on Sunday.

The Netherlands took time to get off the blocks as Australia did all the attacking in the initial few minutes but without much success. After sitting back initially, the Dutchmen got into the groove slowly and had the first real scoring chance in the fourth minute through a penalty corner but Mnk van der Weerden’s flick was kept away by Australia goalkeeper Andrew Charter.

The Netherlands kept up the pressure on the Australian defence and minutes later took the lead through Schuurman, who scored from close range after being set up by Jonas de Gues’ brilliant run down the right flank. Three minutes from the end of first quarter, Mirco Pruijser’s deflection from Netherlands skipper Billy Bakker’s long ball down the middle hit the post.

Three minutes into the second quarter, Australia earned their first penalty corner but wasted it. Netherlands and Australia traded one more penalty corner each in the next few minutes but both the teams failed to convert the chances. Van Ass doubled Netherlands’ lead after his shot from right corner of the box went into the goal following a deflection from Australian Tim Howard’s stick.

Trailing by two goals, the Australians came out with purpose after the change of ends as they attacked in numbers in search of breakthroughs. The Dutch too matched their rivals stick for the stick as the game witnessed an end-to-end battle. Australia pulled a goal back just at the stroke of the third quarter through Howard who scored from a penalty corner after their variation went wrong.

Netherlands goalkeeper Blaak had a wonderful match, inflicting brilliant saves now and then to deny the Australians. In the 53rd minute, an alert Blaak came up with a wonderful reflex save to keep out Flynn Ogilivie’s diving effort and then five minutes later the Dutch keeper made another stunning save to deny Blake Govers from Australia’s fourth penalty corner.

But the Australians did not give up hope and fought till their last breath, which resulted in getting the equaliser just 26 seconds from full time through Ockenden and take the match into a shoot-out.

England were outclassed by their dominant opponents and had little response on a disappointing Saturday afternoon in India.

A double from tournament top scorer Alexander Hendrickx plus strikes from Tom Boon, Simon Gougnard, Cedric Charlier and Sebastien Dockier did the damage.

Man of the match Boon touched in Florent Van Aubel’s cross to open the scoring early on, before Gougnard capitalised on a rebound at a penalty corner to score the second before half-time. Charlier smashed home in the third quarter following some sloppy defending, while Hendrickx wrapped up victory with his sixth and seventh goals of the tournament from penalty corners. Dockier, who earlier produced a contender for miss of the tournament by failing to convert with the goal gaping, inflicted further misery on Kerry’s men by powering in a sixth.

England, whose only final appearance came in 1986, almost halved the deficit at 2-0 early in the second half when Adam Dixon was denied on the line by the impressive Arthur Van Doren following a penalty corner. But, in truth, they could easily have lost the semi-final by an even greater margin, with Boon seeing an effort strike the frame and Belgium failing to convert a handful of late chances.