The Hague - India suffered a humiliating 0-4 loss against defending champions Australia in their final group league encounter of the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup, here on Monday.

Asserting their strength, Australia built up a four-goal lead in the initial 22 minutes, before the Indians managed to re-group themselves and put up a stronger defence thereby denying the fancied rivals a chance of scoring any more goals. Kieran Govers opened the scoring with a field goal in the 27th minute. It was followed by three penalty corner strikes - two by Chris Ciriello and one by Jeremy Hayward. Australia topped Group A with maximum 15 points from five successive victories.

The Aussie players are on course to have another crack at the title as a present to their coach Ric Charlesworth, for whom this will be the last World Cup as he retires, later this year. India finished their five pool matches with four points, gained from a victory over Malaysia and a draw with Spain.

India now await the result of the Spain-Malaysia result later today to know whether they finish fourth or fifth in the group. Spain have two points from four matches, while Malaysia have lost all their four games. A draw or a Malaysian victory will help India finish in the fourth spot in the group, and then play-off for the seventh and eighth spots.

A Spanish victory will relegate India to the fifth spot in the pool, making them play for the ninth and 10th positions. India managed to mouth a few raids, but the defence also regrouped and put up a stiffer challenge for the rival strikers. Australia on Monday opened the game by pressuring the Indian defence into conceding an early goal.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Dabanch scored twice to help Spain cruise to a 5-2 win over Malaysia in a highlycharged Pool A encounter in the GreenFields Stadium.

The result means that Spain finish 4th in Pool A and will play in the 7-8 Classification match against the team that finishes 4th in Pool B. That position is currently occupied by New Zealand's Black Sticks, but may change tomorrow when the final Pool B matches are played. Malaysia's 6th place finish means that they will compete in the 11th-12th place classification game against either Korea or South Africa.

The majority of a lively and feisty first half was dominated by the Spaniards, who attacked at will and caused the Malaysian defence no end of problems. Malaysia were forced to defend in numbers, with goalkeeper Kumar Subramiam doing his best to keep the Europeans off the score-board before the inevitable opener arrived in the 14th minute. Gabi Dabanch was the scorer, cracking home a first time back-hand strike after Kumar blocked a penalty corner.

Spain looked rampant at times and could easily have added a second before Dabanch went from hero to villian by getting sent to the sin-bin for a poor challenge. Malaysia took full advantage of having an extra player on the field, grabbing a 24th minute equalizer from Tengku Ahmad after a neat exchange of passes along the baseline. The final 11 minutes of the half saw two yellow cards, one green card as well as a goal for the Spaniards. An ugly incident resulted in both Faizal Saari of Malaysia and Spain's David Alegre seeing yellow before Malaysia's Razie Abd Rahim was shown green.

Nine-man Malaysia were punished by the ten Spanish players who remained on the field, with Marc Salles sending a rocket-shot past Kumar's right shoulder from the top of the circle to give Spain a 2-1 lead at the break. Spain took their advantage to 4-1 early in the second period, with team captain Santi Freixa netting a penalty corner drag-flick before Dabanch fired through Kumar's legs from the right to claim his second goal of the game.

Despite trailing by three goals, Malaysia never gave up the ghost and reduced the deficit when Fitri Saari sent a penalty stroke into the top right corner. Fitri came close to netting Malayia's third with a glorious tomahawk effort, being denied only by an acrobatic glove save from Cortes that brought a roar of approval from the crowd.

However, it was Spain who had the last laugh, with Sergi Enrique wrapping up the points a minute from the end with a perfectly placed slap-shot.

"Today we are quite happy", said Spanish captain Santi Freixi immediately after the match. "I don't know who will be our opponent in the 7th-8th place match, but it will be a very good fight."