Rio de Janeiro, Aug 18 (IANS) Defending champions the Netherlands will play Britain in the women’s hockey final at the Olympic Games after both sides emerged victorious over Germany and New Zealand respectively in their semi-finals.
The Dutch dream of a history-making third successive women’s Olympic hockey gold medal remains very much alive after defeating Germany in a drama filled shoot-out after the match finished with the scores locked at 1-1 on Wednesday.
Although the reigning Olympic and World champions will go into the final as favourites, they face a Britain team that is in the form of its life. They made it seven wins from seven matches at Rio 2016 to claim a 3-0 triumph over New Zealand and reach the Olympic final for the first time in their history.
World No.9 Germany took a shock lead against the favourites Netherlands in the first semi-final, with the 2004 Olympic champions moving ahead thanks to a first quarter penalty corner from Lisa Schütze.
The title holders hit back in the second quarter through the ever-reliable Maartje Paumen, who netted a penalty corner in the 16th minute to level the scores at 1-1.
Remarkably, that score-line remained unchanged for the rest of the match, meaning that the contest would be decided by a shoot-out.
A nervy shoot-out saw only four of the ten takers convert their chances, locking the score at 2-2 and initiating ‘sudden death’.
Following successful efforts from Germany’s Janne Müller-Wieland and Willemijn Bos of the Netherlands, the match was settled when Marie Mävers was denied by Dutch shot-stopper Joyce Sombroek before Ellen Hoog scored to put the Oranje on the verge of a historic third successive Olympic gold medal.
World No.7 Britain sealed their first ever Olympic final place with a superb performance against world No.4 New Zealand who were dangerous throughout.
New Zealand, who missed out on the bronze medal at London 2012 at the hands of Britain, had arguably the better of the first two periods. But it was Britain who went into half time with a lead thanks to Alex Danson’s poacher’s finish following a saved penalty corner.
New Zealand pressed hard for an equaliser throughout the third quarter and into the early stages of the fourth, but found themselves unable to break through Britain’s rock-solid defensive line before the game’s key moment arrived in the 48th minute.
Kiwi captain Kayla Whitelock gave away a penalty stroke for a foul on Helen Richardson-Walsh and subsequently received a yellow card five minute suspension before the felled Richardson-Walsh picked herself up to double the advantage from the penalty spot.
It was a knock-out blow for New Zealand, who quickly conceded another penalty stroke after great work from Lily Owsley, with Danson taking over penalty responsibilities from the injured Helen Richardson-Walsh to put Great Britain into the Olympic final.