Middleton excited by prospect of World Cup date with Dutch

10 June 2014 / 06:45

England hockey captain Barry Middleton admits a World Cup semi-final date with hosts Holland will be a step into the unknown - but has backed his team to rise to the challenge.

Middleton's team booked their final four progress with a dramatic 3-2 win over Belgium, which secured them second place in their group behind unbeaten Australia.

But the likelihood of a clash with Holland is exciting Middleton, who once played club hockey in a country where the sport is ranked alongside football and speed skating as a national obsession.

"I would have loved England to have won the bid to stage this tournament but when I heard it was in The Hague, with my history here I had a smile on my face," said Middleton. 

"We said we didn’t want to just come and play in a tournament in The Hague, we wanted to come and do something special. That’s what we’re looking for. We want to play in front of a full stadium. We haven’t had it yet. 

"We’ve played in front of good crowds but having seen it on TV it’ll be like nothing we’ve experienced before, unlike the Olympics, the crowd are out to get us this time. 

"We've nothing to fear, against Belgium we showed everyone the talent this team has. If you want to win big games you have to battle and do the dirty stuff and that’s what we did.”

England coach Bobby Crutchley will be without Tim Whiteman for the final four clash after he broke his thumb in the final group game but believes momentum is on his side, following Iain Lewers penalty winner against Belgium.

“Last year in the semi-final of the Europeans we lost to Belgium and we were convincingly outplayed," he said. 

"They are a top team; a young, top team. They are going to be a threat in the back end of tournaments for a long time. We knew we had to play well and we knew we had to defend for long periods and be very disciplined with our shape and I thought for the majority of the game we were. 

"I’d have liked us to have had more possession and put them on the back foot a bit more but those big games are often decided on digging in and fighting and I’m really proud of the team. It’s a fantastic result against a really quality opposition.”

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