Four goals from Sam Ward guided England to a 7-2 win over Korea in their final Pool A game at the Hero Hockey World League in London.
Ward’s impressive quadruple and strikes from David Ames and Phil Roper (2) saw the hosts finish the pool stage of their campaign in style and they will now face Canada in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
The hosts have netted 19 goals in victories over China, Malaysia, Korea and a draw with Argentina, and will go into their clash with Canada full of confidence.
England started brightly and were quick to start putting pressure on the Korean back line. The ball was fired towards goal before being helped into the path of Chris Griffiths by Ward but the goalkeeper was quick off his line.
However just a minute later and England were ahead through Ward. Moving the ball down the right Henry Weir found space in the circle before flinging a cross to the near post where Ward cleverly deflected past the keeper.
After the first break England came flying back out the traps and extended their lead with a classic three man weave. England stole the ball outside their own area before surging into the Korea half, Ames then released Sanford who found Ward, his clever flick freed up Ames in the area and his strike flew high into the net to send the stands into a frenzy.
Korea were quick to respond though, having won a penalty corner the ball was slipped left at the top and Jonghyun Jang dragged the ball powerfully into the bottom right corner, but England kept their lead as the teams headed into the half-time break.
With only victory enough to see Korea reach the quarter-finals they came out swinging and a minute after the restart were level, Daeyeol Lee’s hit from the top deflected off an England player and into the net.
England though were soon back in front as Ward grabbed his fifth goal of the tournament, hammering a fierce reverse stick strike high into the roof of the net. Just three minutes later and Ward was celebrating his hat trick, Harry Martin held off pressure from four Korean defenders before crossing to Ward who coolly lifted the ball over the keeper.
With an eight goal winning margin needed to leapfrog Argentina and finish top of pool A, England removed keeper George Pinner and opted for a kicking back in a hunt for goals. A brace from Phil Roper and another for Ward in the closing stages saw England end with a flourish with the fans enjoying the attacking hockey on show.
England: George Pinner, David Ames, Henry Weir, Ian Sloan, Michael Hoare, Mark Gleghorne, Phil Roper, Barry Middleton, Brendan Creed, David Goodfield, Liam Sanford, Ollie Willars, Harry Martin, Sam Ward, Adam Dixon, David Condon, Christopher Griffiths
Sub (Unused): Harry Gibson
England face Canada at 8pm on Thursday evening, with the winner automatically qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in India. The full Thursday schedule is:
11am: Korea vs Scotland (9/10 place)
1:15pm: Argentina vs Pakistan
3:30pm: India vs Malaysia
5:45pm: Netherlands vs China
8pm: England vs Canada