England and Barry Middleton finish fourth at Hockey World CupÂ
England were made to settle for fourth place at a third consecutive Hockey World Cup after being defeated 8-1 by brilliant Australia in the bronze medal match.
Tom Craig's hat-trick was the standout performance from the world number one outfit, with Jeremy Hayward scoring two late corners in addition to strikes from Blake Govers, Trent Mitton and Tim Brand.
Doncaster-born Barry Middleton scored a consolation in a game where Liam Sanford also made his 50th combined international appearance.
The result was of course very disappointingÂ but, with time to reflect, Danny Kerry and his players will come home with much to be pleased about.
With European and Commonwealth medals since Rio, a top four finish at the World Cup and now the FIH Pro League starting in 2019, there is growing confidence among the England and Great Britain men's squads.Â
Reflecting on the event as a whole, coach Danny Kerry said: 'When we stuck to our game we competed at this event, but against the leading teams we could not do that consistently enough.
'We were well punished by Australia for forcing play and turning the ball over. That's a hard lesson to learn but we will.Â
"My job is to keep perspective, remind ourselves of what we have done well and be compassionately ruthless in developing our play toward qualifying for the Tokyo Games.
'We have blooded young players in the toughest of environments and tried to stretch the game of more established players.
'On a personal level therefore I am already excited about where we go next and how.'
England lost 6-0 to Belgium in Saturday's semi-final after beating New Zealand and Argentina in the knockout stages.
The Great Britain men's next fixture is in late January whenÂ they travel to Spain for their very first fixture in the new FIH Pro League.
Middleton, 34, was appearing at his fourth World Cup.
The former Doncaster Hockey Club graduate has 432Â combined caps for Great Britain and England, and is closing in on the all-time record of 453 held by the Netherlands's Teun de Nooijer.