By Daniel Etchells

South Africa's 3-2 win against Azerbaijan has set up a semi-final against China ©FIH/Gavin WithersSouth Africa's men kept their Olympic dream alive after overcoming a quarter-final scare against Azerbaijan to win 3-2 at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) World League (HWL) Round 2 event in Cape Town.

Despite holding a commanding 3-0 lead, thanks to a brace from team captain Austin Smith and a Ignatius Malgraff strike, the Pool A winners were made to sweat for their victory in the final 10 minutes as a Shahbaz Ali double set up a thrilling climax.

The world's 13th ranked country will continue their quest for one of the three remaining places in the Olympic Qualifier phase of the HWL on Saturday (March 14) when they face China.

Two goals from Sun Long, were added to by Zhang Zhixuan, Liu Yixian, E Linguang and Guo Xiaoping as the Chinese defied their inferior world ranking of 28th to that of opponents Czech Republic, ranked 20th, to record an emphatic 6-2 win.

The other last four encounter pits Egypt, 7-1 winners against Belarus after going a goal behind, against France, 5-3 victors against Switzerland.

Double strikes from Amr Ibrahim and Ashraf Said helped the Egyptians safely through to the semi-finals, while goals from Simon Martin Brisac and Victor Charlet proved decisive in France's triumph.

The three highest finishers in the eight-team tournament, which concludes on Sunday (March 15), will each be guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals of the HWL, where places at Rio 2016 are up for grabs. 

Six of the nine semi-final places available in Round Two have already been taken with Malaysia, Poland and Japan qualifying from the tournament in Singapore earlier this year, and Ireland, Austria and Canada securing their passage in San Diego earlier this week.

The Centro Nacional de Alto Rendimiento Deportivo in Buenos Aires has been chosen to host the HWL semi-finals from June 3 to 14, with the top four teams advancing to December's final in Mohali, India.

Thailand's women overcame the odds to beat higher-ranked Kazakhstan ©FIH/ADImagesThailand's women overcame the odds to beat higher-ranked Kazakhstan ©FIH/ADImages

Meanwhile, in the women's competition, India, Malaysia, Poland and Thailand make up the quartet of semi-finalists in their event being held in New Delhi.

India's striker Vandana Katariya bagged a four goal haul against Singapore to send the home favourites into the last four, where they will face surprise package Thailand.

Despite lying 13 places below opponents Kazakhstan in the world rankings, Thailand managed to pull off a stunning 4-3 victory.

Goals from Oriana Walasek, Natalia Wisniewska, team captain Marlena Rybacha and Magdalena Zagajska earned Poland a 4-2 win against higher-ranked Russia and they will now face Malaysia, who emerged 2-0 winners against Ghana thanks to strikes from Norazlin Sumantri and Hanis Onn.

The top two finishers in the Indian capital are certain to qualify for the HWL semi-finals, and will join Italy and Uruguay who secured their progression at last month's Round Two event in Montevideo.

The other three places on offer will be taken up by the top two finishers at the Round Two event in Dublin, which is due to start on Saturday (March 14) and conclude on March 22, and the highest ranked third placed finisher from the three events.

Azerbaijan, who finished third in Montevideo, have an anxious wait to find out if they have done enough to qualify.

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