ANTWERP - Reigning world champions Australia sent out a clear statement of intent in their first match of the Hockey World League semi-finals, surging to a 10-0 triumph over Pool A opponents France. Striker siblings Kieran and Blake Govers both scored twice in the rout, with Chris Ciriello, Jamie Dwyer, Matt Gohdes, Simon Orchard, Jacob Whetton and Eddie Ockenden also contributing.

The pick of the goals came from Gohdes, who started and finished a slick passing move with an audacious chip that sailed over the head of onrushing goalkeeper Martin Zylbermann and just under the crossbar. It was a typically impressive display from Australia and was the perfect way to mark one of their player milestones, with Fergus Kavanagh enjoying that familiar winning feeling on the occasion of his 200th international appearance.

Australia’s Matthew Swann was feeling good about his teams display, saying: “It was a really great way to start. We felt that we’d put in a lot of hard training sessions and I think physically we are very well prepared for the tournament.”

“It was tough and we are not really happy about our performance, but Australia are the best in the world”, said France’s Hugo Genestet. “We have more important matches coming up and we have to focus on getting some results from those.”

Belgium scored a fourth-quarter equaliser to hold Great Britain to a 2-2 draw. Belgium, whose world No 4 ranking is one spot ahead of the rivals, failed to make an impression on the sound British defence in the Group B encounter. The hosts were relieved to see Sebastian Dockier's conversion from a penalty corner rebound in the 49th minute to equalise 2-2. The Belgians took the initial lead in the 19th minute when Simon Gougnard's diagonal pass into the circle was deflected in by captain John-John Dohmen.

Britain drew parity on a deft flick into the goal by Simon Griffiths in scoring zone action following their first penalty corner in the 23rd minute. They went a goal ahead on an outstanding field goal by Alastair Brogdon, who capped his run down the left flank with a first shot into the net in the 32nd minute.

Malaysia began their Pool B campaign by overcoming a gritty Chinese outfit 3-2 in an all-Asian contest. World No 12 Malaysia took charge of the contest with two goals in the second quarter as Faizal Saari sent a stinging shot into the net from a narrow angle in the 18th minute and M Shamsul duly converted a penalty stroke on the stroke of half-time.

China came back into the contest through a 38th-minute field goal from Guo Xiaoping. The Chinese could have equalised soon after but their penalty stroke was overturned after a Malaysian appeal. Malaysia stretched the lead in the 53rd minute on a penalty corner goal by captain Razie Rahim, but China were back in the contest by pulling one back in the last minute through a Zhang Zhixuan's fine deflection. Chinese effort to force an equalizer in the closing stages was thwarted by the Malaysian defence.

2014 Champions Trophy Silver medallists Pakistan edged out brave Poland 2-1 in an absorbing contest that brought an entertaining first day. The Greenshirts dominated the early stages of the match and took a deserved lead when Muhammad Irfan slammed a penalty corner drag-flick into the bottom right corner after just four minutes. However, Poland’s defence tightened up and reduced their opponents to rare chances, with Shafqat Rasool going closest to adding to the Pakistan tally just before half time.

Poland goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski produced two tremendous saves in the third quarter, showing cat-like reflexes to deny both Rasool and Muhammad Dilber to keep his team in the game going into the final quarter. Pacanowski came up with another fine save to from a M Imran penalty corner flick before Poland’s Pawel Bratkowski slammed home ripping penalty corner of his own to tie their scores with nine minutes to play.

Pakistan were not to be denied, however, with M Waqas showing a poacher’s instinct to force the ball home from close range to give his side all three points. “The first match is always difficult and Poland played a very physical game”, said Pakistan’s Rashid Mehmood. “We are pleased to win but we feel we should have converted so many more of our chances.”

Ninth ranked India were pushed all the way by 18th ranked France in their opening Pool A match but eventually emerged winners thanks to a last minute strike from Ramandeep Singh. France - winners of the HWL Round 2 event in Cape Town - stunned their illustrious opponents when they took a surprise 1-0 lead thanks to a fine strike from Olivier Sanchez.

India hit back with two goals in quick succession with Manpreet Singh and Devindar Walmiki both finishing off excellent team moves to give the eight times Olympic champions a 2-1 lead at half time.

France levelled the scores in the 43rd minute when Simon Martin-Brisac crashed a powerful shot past India shot-stopper Sreejesh, giving the Europeans hope that they might claim a share of the points before a diving Ramandeep guided a loose ball into an unguarded net in the dying stages.

Speaking after the match, Martin-Brisac said: “There is no consolation in the manner of our loss because we really wanted to get something from the game. To concede so late is very disappointing, but we know we played a good game. We remain confident and will continue to work hard.”

Indian Head Coach Paul van Ass said that, due to the unpredictability of opening matches, that he certainly wasn’t expecting an easy time. “The start of a tournament is always special, there never an easy match as no-one will give an inch. The good part is that we managed to make the third goal, which was really important.”

Results

On June 21

Australia 10-0 France

Malaysia 3-2 China

Great Britain 2-2 Belgium

On June 20

Pakistan 2-1 Poland

India 3-2 France