Goalkeeper Andrew Carter saved a penalty stroke by Marc Miralles with five minutes to the final hooter as Australia came back from a two-goal deficit to prevail over a fighting Spain in the first quarterfinal of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 here on Tuesday.
Australia were leading 4-3 with five minutes to go when Spain earned a penalty stroke for a stick-check foul inside the shooting circle. But the experienced Carter correctly guessed the direction of Miralles' push and palmed it away.
If Spain had scored that goal, they would have taken the match into a shoot-out. Instead, Australia survived the remaining time and sealed their place in the semifinals where they await the winner of the fourth quarterfinal between England and Germany.
Jeremy Hayward (32nd min and 36th min) struck a brace of goals for Australia while Flynn Ogilvie (29th min) and Aran Zalewski (31st min) contributed one goal each to the Australian score.
Xavier Gispert (19th min) and Marc Recasens had given Spain a 2-0 lead before the World No.1 fought back not only to level the scores but with Hayward blasting home two penalty corners within five minutes, Australia surged to a 4-2 lead.
Marc Miralles scored a penalty corner in the 40th minute to reduce the margin but when the crucial time came, Carter thwarted him as the World No. 1 and three-time champions heaved a sign of relief.
Australia won the title in 1986, 2010 and 2014 and claimed the bronze medal four years back in Bhubneswar. Now they have set themselves up for another title but will have to spruce up their defence if they have to claim their fourth title and join Pakistan as the most successful nation in the men's World Cup.
Australia have reached the semifinals every time since 1975 but came close to losing that record as Spain gave them a huge scare, capitalising on counter-attacks and leaving the usually steady Kookaburras defense gasping as they scored two goals in the second quarter to lead 2-0.
Gisperi gave Spain, who had come through the Crossover stage after getting the better of a fighting Malaysia in sudden death, the lead at the start of the second quarter after a goalless first period in which Australia earned three penalty corners but failed to score.
Australia had a chance to square things up three minutes later off their fourth PC but were thwarted again. A minute later, Recasens made it 2-0 for Spain when he scored a fine field goal.
Australia reduced the margin just before half-time when Ogilgvie deflected home a superb pass from outside the shooting circle on the right flank. Australia continued to attack in the third quarter and within a minute of the re-start levelled the score 2-2 when Zalewski scored off another fine attack.
Hayward then stepped up and converted their fifth and sixth penalty corners. with superb drag flicks as Australia led 4-2. Spain went on the attack in search for a goal and forced three penalty corners but the Australian defence stood strong.
Miralles, however, raised their hopes by scoring off their fourth penalty corner of the third quarter in the 40th minute, making the score 4-3 in favour of Australia.
Spain attacked in numbers in the final quarter and capitalised on a green card to Lachlan Sharp to launch a series of attacks, one of which earned them a penalty stroke when Gisperi was stick-checked in front of the goal and Spain were given a penalty stroke.
But Carter ensured that Spain did not script another fairy tale win and secured a last-four berth for Australia.