Freixa's hat trick sends Spain into World Cup semifinals

Wednesday, September 13th 2006, 9:41 am
By: News On 6

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) _ Santiago Freixa scored a hat trick and Spain beat Japan 4-2 to move into the semifinals of the men's field hockey World Cup on Wednesday.

The European champions had needed only a draw to advance from Pool A with Australia.

Kenichi Katayama opened the scoring for Japan in the 15th minute to reward the last-place team's form early in the game.

But Spain's strikers _ regarded as the world's best _ scored the next two goals. Seven minutes later, Pol Amat tapped in a cross from Freixa, who then netted with a reverse-stick goal in the 44th.

``One of our forwards is always having a good day. If one isn't putting it away, then the other is putting it away,'' Spain coach Maurits Hendriks said.

Toshiaki Fukuda slapped in a shot off a 48th-minute penalty corner to level at 2-2.

But Freixa took his total at the tournament to five with goals in the 57th and 66th minutes.

Later Wednesday in final group play, Australia can top Pool A if it beats Pakistan.

In Pool B, Germany plays South Korea with the winner advancing alongside the Netherlands. If the teams draw, they advance and the Netherlands is relegated to the fifth-place playoff.