THE HAGUE: A stunning hat-trick from Gonzalo Peillat in the first 19 minutes of Argentina's match against South Korea and an innovative second half goal sealed Argentina's status as serious medal contenders in the Rabobank Hockey World Cup here on Sunday. Argentina have ripped up the rule books in this tournament. Coach Carlos Retegui is doing the seemingly impossible job of guiding both the men's and women's teams to the semi-finals and the men come to this tournament with very little international match-play under their belts. Add in the small matter of an 11th-place FIH World Ranking and a classic tale of success against all the odds is beginning to unfold.
Argentina's 5-0 victory over South Korea has all but booked but their place in the semi-finals, just a victory over South Africa stands between Los Leones and a match against one of Australia, Belgium or England. The story of this match was dominated by the penalty corner drag-flicks of Gonzalo Peillat. His first, on four minutes, was as perfect as it is possible to get. The powerful shot entered the net just under the crossbar and there was nothing the goalkeeper Lee Myungho could do about it. With his team working as one to win more opportunities, it was just three minutes later that Peillat was able to score his second. This one shot in at mid-height - another unstoppable rocket of a goal.
Lucas Vila (12') scored the third goal for Argentina, picking up a loose ball and edging it past Lee Myungho to effectively kill off the Korean challenge. But Korea's traumatic start to the match was not yet over. Peillat (20') scored his third goal following more great building work from Lucas Vila in the circle. It was not all one-way traffic and Los Leones' 'keeper Juan Vivaldi was called upon to make saves from Kim Youngjin and then an even better, close-range attempt from Jung Manjae. But for most of the first half, it was the surging runs of the blue and white shirts that looked most likely to yield goals.
A goalkeeper change for Korea saw Kim Jaehyeon take his place between the posts, and it might have been his presence that stopped Peillat's flow as the dart-flick specialist missed his fourth penalty corner, the ball skimming harmlessly past the post. Korea's best chance of the match came in first few minutes of the second half, Jang Jonghyun passing in front of Vivaldi, but Hyun Hyesung was just a tantalising few millimetres from connecting with the ball. That scare over it was back to business for Argentina. Agustin Mazzilli's strike was nearly one go the goals of the tournament. Mazzilli let fly with a reverse stick shot from the left-hand side of the circle, and it looked as if the ball would just fly over the crossbar, when Guillermo Schickendantz (54) reached out his stick and angled the ball down into the circle.
Korea's last chance of a consolation goal came in the 58th minute when You Hyosik found himself unmarked in the circle. His shot was top quality, but the save by Vivaldi can only be described as world class. This was Vivaldi's last action as he was replaced by Agustin Abratte. Gonzalo's hat-trick is his second of the tournament, equalling the two hat-tricks of Razie And Rahim and moving Peillat to the top of the goal scoring table.
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