New Zealand, Britain, Germany, Netherlands in women’s hockey semis
Rio de Janeiro, Aug 16 (IANS) New Zealand, Germany, Britain and reigning champions the Netherlands were all winners in the women’s hockey quarter-finals at the Rio Olympic Games here.
New Zealand continued their excellent form at the Deodoro Hockey Centre by defeating Oceania rivals Australia, and will now face Britain, who proved too strong for Spain.
The semi-final meeting between the Black Sticks and Britain will be a replay of the London 2012 bronze medal match, where the host nation emerged victorious.
Germany defeated the United States to claim their ticket to the final four, where title holders the Netherlands now lie in wait on Wednesday.
The Dutch kept alive their dream of securing a third successive Olympic gold medal by overcoming London 2012 silver medallists Argentina, continuing an unbeaten run that began with their opening match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Interestingly, Germany were the last team to beat the Netherlands in Olympic competition, with Die Danas claiming a monumental 2-1 success over the Oranjes in the final of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games to win the gold medal.
The first quarter-final day was the Oceania derby, with Pool A second place finishers New Zealand claiming a 4-2 victory over Oceania champions Australia, who finished third in the Pool B standings.
Penalty corner goals in the opening two quarters put New Zealand on their way, with Anita McLaren’s drag-flick finding the top right corner before Kelsey Smith made it 2-0 with a diving deflection six minutes ahead of half time.
The Hockeyroos reduced the deficit when Kathryn Slattery netted a penalty corner just after the break, but two New Zealand goals in four minutes from Gemma Flynn and Olivia Merry took the score to 4-1 before Slattery completed the scoring with a late consolation.
World No.9 Germany became the second team to book a final four ticket, upsetting Pan-American champions US with a 2-1 triumph. An electric first period saw Die Danas move into a 2-0 lead, with Marie Mävers and Lisa Altenburg on target as the Olympic champions from Athens 2004 made the perfect start and gave the Americans a mountain to climb.
Katelyn Falgowski’s field goal three minutes from the end of the match gave the US reason to believe, but the German defence showed immense composure in the final stages to claim a win that keeps their gold medal ambitions very much alive.
World No.7 Britain have been in exceptional form throughout Rio 2016 and made it six wins out of six with a superb first half performance to outclass Spain 3-1.
Danny Kerry’s team was sensational in the first two quarters, with attacker Sophie Bray in particular proving almost unplayable as she inspired Britain into a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Georgie Twigg, Helen Richardson-Walsh and Lily Owsley.
Spain, the 1992 Olympic champions, were vastly improved after half time and had some notable chances, with Berta Bonastre hitting the post before Georgina Oliva scored a fine individual goal seven minutes from the end.
The final match of the day was an epic battle between the top two sides in world hockey, with reigning Olympic and World champions the Netherlands fighting their way past perennial rivals Argentina.
Despite finishing fourth in Pool B, Argentine produced their best performance of the competition but it was not quite good enough to deny the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic gold medallists their place in the final four.
Although heavy rain made the playing conditions far from perfect, the re-match of the London 2012 Olympic final was utterly absorbing throughout.
World Player of the Year 2015 Lidewij Welten gave the Dutch an early lead with a well taken backhand effort before Laurien Leurink doubled the advantage just before half time when she finished off a fine solo run with a blistering forehand strike.
Florencia Habif pulled a goal back for Argentina just before the end of the third quarter, but Kelly Jonker re-established the Dutch two-goal advantage with 13 minutes remaining.
Delfina Merino set up a grandstand finish with a penalty corner seven minutes from time, but the Netherlands held on to move within two victories of winning a third successive Olympic title.
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