In the first quarter, the Netherlands looked like pulling an upset as they took the lead against Japan, very much against expectations.
In the second period, Japan pulled back to 6-6 but their defence continued to be too static, allowing the Dutch to pull ahead to 7-6 at half-time. Quite a significant surprise given Japan's performances in the blue division games, and given the Netherlands' struggle against Wales.
In the third quarter, the Japanese pressure was intense and shots were firing in from all angles. It was only the keeper Grant Zimmerman which stopped the Japanese from going further ahead than 8-7. The goalkeeper was then very unlucky to injure his leg on a clearing run, perhaps with a pulled hamstring, leaving an empty goal for the Japanese to go up 9-7. With their backup keeper number 5 in place it was pretty soon 10-7 and a change in momentum to Japan for the end of the third quarter.
An exchange of goals later, and the score was swiftly back at 11-8 to Japan. But Zimmerman's absence continued to hurt the Netherlands, and their attack gave the ball away needlessly too many times. Japan kept on fighting and took their opportunities well, ending up with a 14-8 victory which sounds a lot closer than it was for a long part of the game.
So, Japan are as expected through to the semi-finals, playing against the USA, and the Netherlands after a superb performance here, go through to the 5th-8th place playoffs against England and Germany.
This is the second play-in game for the semi-finals, between Australia from the Blue division and Scotland who won their way through from the Turquoise division. The winner goes to the semis, and the loser goes to the 5th-8th places as above.
Against expectations, Scotland scored first for 1-0 but the Australian attack were able to pull the Scottish defence in all directions and their outside shots managed to get past the Scottish keeper at will, so the Aussies pulled ahead to 6-1. A whistling sidearm shot from Dan Heighway at the end gave the Scots some consolation going into quarter time at 6-2.
In the second quarter, both teams battled without score for quite some time before Australia broke the deadlock with a fast break and not too long after that went up to 9-2. Just before half-time, lightning disrupted play and the match was stopped until the storm clouds dissipate.
After a lengthy delay, the match restarted with just 3 minutes left in the half, and immediately Australia burst into action with a quick goal, making the half-time score 10-2.
In the third quarter, Australia scored again but Scotland grabbed three back - one on a three-man-up play (!), one on a man-down play, and one with a speedy solo effort from David Gill. The momentum continued with a superb team goal, after continued pressure, with a cross-crease feed and a diving quickstick. After a couple more quick Scottish goals, the scoreline was suddenly back to 11-8 and Scotland were really back into the game, working their dodges well and backing up their shots to retain possession.
Only after an Australian timeout did they manage to regain their rhythm and retain the ball for a while, but the three-quarter time score remained at 11-8 and the momentum was still with the momentous Scottish comeback.
In the fourth quarter, Scotland escaped a period of man-down and even managed to score to go as close as 11-9. At this point the Australians really didn't look as comfortable as they had done in earlier matches, and struggled much more than many expected in this game. Somehow they managed to get their act together and score two outside shots and two good assists to pull ahead 15-9.
A Scottish fast break brought it back to 15-10 but with just 10 minutes remaining, a spectacular check on the Australian ride caused a turnover and a quick goal, and a flurry of accurate shooting extended their lead to 19-10. The Scottish keeper seemed to struggle with the shots, perhaps due to the lights in this late game.
Scotland got another consolation but Australia exploited a man-up situation to take the final score to 20-11, which sounds a lot more convincing than the game was for large periods.
Scotland certainly put on a much more impressive show than the last time we saw them, and Australia are well below the form they had in the last world's too. But Australia progresses nevertheless into the all-blue semi-finals, and Scotland will face England tomorrow in the 5th-8th place playoffs.
Italy 7, Switzerland 6
Finland 13, Poland 7
Japan 14, Netherlands 8
Australia 20, Scotland 11