BHUBANESWAR: Two-time defending champions Australia are well on course to create a rare history as they defeated France 3-0 to progress to the semi-finals of the men’s hockey World Cup on Wednesday. World no.1 Australia scored all their goals from penalty corners through Jeremy Hayward (4th minute), Blake Govers (19th) and skipper Aran Zalewski (37th) at the Kalinga Stadium. However, the final scoreline was far from convincing from Australia’s point of view, especially against a side which ranked lowest in the tournament at 20th.The Frenchmen played good hockey in bits and pieces but were undone by the Kookaburras’ vast experience and skills. Despite the loss, the Frenchmen would return home with pride, especially with the superb show here that includes a shocking win over Olympic champions Argentina in the pool stages. Australia will play the winner of Thursday’s last quarter-final between India and Netherlands in the semi-finals on Saturday.Four minutes into the match, Australia earned their first penalty corner when the ball found Francois Goyet’s foot and Hayward made no mistake in converting the opportunity to hand his side the early lead. Australia continued to dominate the proceedings with repeated forays as the French defence found itself in shambles to keep the Kookaburras at bay. Soon after the start of the second quarter, Jake Whetton earned Australia its second penalty corner and Govers fully obliged by smashing his flick into the back of France’s net to take a 2-0 lead. Just at the stroke of half time, France earned their first penalty corner which they wasted as Australia went into the halfway break with a comfortable 2-0 lead. Seven minutes into the third quarter, Australia tripled their lead when Zalewski converted Kookaburras’ third penalty corner with a variation. The Australians kept up the pressure on the France defence and secured another penalty corner in the 41st minute but this time they failed to make use of the chance.The final quarter witnessed a neck-and-neck fight between the two teams as France tried hard to forge a comeback into the match but the Australians defended in numbers to deny any inroads. The Kookaburras too tried to extend their lead over their less-fancied opponents but failed to create any real scoring opportunities. Australia eventually defended their 3-0 lead and now wait for a mouth-watering semi-final clash against either India or Netherlands. Published in Daily Times, December 13th 2018.