After 35 games of brilliant hockey, with the most incredible festival atmosphere in Potchefstroom, RSA it is The Netherlands and Germany that will contest the Final tomorrow following strong performances in the semi-finals yesterday:
Netherlands 3-0 India (Semi-final) – Potchefstroom, northwest University (RSA)
The top four goalscorers thus far in the competition were on the pitch for this game, so the spectators could have been forgiven for anticipating a goal-fest. However, the two teams involved have also been the meanest when it comes to conceding goals. Prior to today’s fixture, the Dutch had gone four hours to this point without giving a goal away, while India had conceded just two goals in the four previous matches.
It was a wonderful start to the game. Mumtaz Khan nearly gave India the dream start as she received the ball from Tete Salima and saw her resulting shot strike Sophie ter Kuile’s goalpost.
Just minutes later Jip Dicke uncharacteristically missed the ball when faced with a clear scoring opportunity after Noor Omrani sent a lovely ball through to the sharpshooter.
India continued to press forwards with real intensity but then the Dutch did what they do brilliantly. The ball was picked up in defence and 18 swift passes later it was in the back of the India net. The final moves involved a one-two from Luna Fokke to Noor Omrani and onto Tessa Beetsma. Beetsma made no mistake as she shot past Devi Kharibam in the India goal.
Beetsma thought she had scored again just seconds later by some great umpiring by Rebecca Woodcock detected the use of the back of the stick and the scores remained at 1-0.
Possession then batted back and forth, with India causing more problems in 30 minutes than the team in orange had faced all tournament. However, during his half-time talk, India Head Coach Erik Wonink would have been urging his players to push harder to turn chances into goals.
The second half saw the Netherlands begin to push their foot down a little more. The difference between the team in orange and all other teams in Potchefstroom is the speed and accuracy with which they pass the ball; as the second half progressed, India was feeling the full force of the Dutch passing game.
In the third quarter, the Netherlands created several early chances to put the game out of reach. Luna Fokke, Rosa Fernig, and Mette Winter all had good scoring opportunities but India somehow managed to clear their circle and keep their opponents in sight. Priyanka was particularly strong at the heart of the Indian defence.
And so with 15 minutes left, the game was still wide open. India’s speedy counterattack was always going to pose a threat to the Netherlands and so there was a lot of high tension around the pitch.
The match was put to bed in the final seven minutes of the game as the Netherlands scored two goals of sublime quality. First Noor Omrani showed great vision to send a cross-field pass to Luna Fokke, who used her own body movement to receive the ball and put away the shot.
This body blow to India was followed seconds later when Maria Steensma sent a pass into the circle and Jip Dicke tipped it home, bringing her tournament tally to 13 – two ahead of teammate Fokke.
Player of the Match Noor Omrani said: ‘I am so super proud that we have made it to the final. We talked to each other and we said this will be the biggest test and look what we did. India played really well but everyone was contributing to the scoring and happy for each other. I don’t care who we meet in the final. The opposition doesn’t matter to us.’
Talking about the second goal scored by Fokke, Omrani said: ’I got the ball and I was looking at the goal, but Luna [Fokke] and I have some chemistry; I can’t describe it. I saw her running and I thought, yes she needs to get the ball. So I gave her the ball and when she gets the ball, she will always score. I have faith in her and she did it. That goal, taking it to 2-0 meant we could breathe a little bit and chill. It was an amazing goal.’
Netherlands Head Coach Dave Smolenaar said: ‘This means a lot. Winning against a team as strong as India was great. We defended well and scored three beautiful goals. We didn’t start well in the first half, but we loosened up after we scored the goal.’
His counterpart, India’s Head Coach Erik Wonink said: ’I am proud of the girls. We gave a really good fight. We played well in the first half but let it slip a bit in the second. As a group, we learned so much. In the bronze medal match, we will use our skill and speed to aim for that bronze medal.’
England 0-8 Germany (Semi-final) – Potchefstroom, northwest University (RSA)
Germany got off to a dream start in the second semi-final of the day when they scored an early penalty corner goal. The goal was created and scored by Verena Neumann who ran the ball into the circle to win the penalty corner and was then the beneficiary of a penalty corner variation, which saw the ball played back to her as the injector. She stooped low to sweep the ball into the net.
England was left stunned just two minutes later when Germany doubled their lead through a fantastically taken drag flick from Stine Kurz. Two penalty corner goals meant the England defence was nervous about conceding another corner. A reluctance to make a tackle would explain why Jette Fleschütz was able to run through the defence and pop the ball past Mila Welch in the England goal to give her side a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Pauline Heinz increased England’s pain in the second quarter. England had started to make their own in-roads, with Sophia Martin making a great interception but unable to finish with a goal. However, Germany went on a counter-attack which saw Julie Bleuel drive forwards before slipping the ball to Sara Strauss. Strauss’s shot rebounded to Pauline Heinz, who was able to fire the ball home, much to the dismay of the England team.
Germany’s conversion rates from penalty corners continued to impress as they added to the scoreboard with a third penalty corner from just five attempts. Verena Neumann was able to repeat her first goal as the penalty corner was played back to her as she moved from the injection point towards the goal.
Neumann scored her hat-trick a minute later when she latched onto a shot into the circle and just did enough to wrong-foot Evie Wood who had replaced Mila Welch in the England goal.
Two more goals followed. Sophia Schwabe capped an impressive performance with a goal after Sara Strauss had shown her commitment with a full-length diving effort at the end of the pitch to keep the ball in play and send it back to Strauss. Then Lily Stoffelsma finished things off with a craftily lifted ball over Woods in the final seconds of the match.
Player of the Match Verena Neumann said: ‘It was not our best game but we went out as a team and we won it as a team. I think we are really happy to play the Netherlands. We know them well and we want to beat them.’
Head Coach Akim Bouchouchi said: ‘I am happy with this game and the impressive finishing. We will celebrate that. Then we will focus on the next game and we will win the next one also. We will watch the video and decide what game plan to use against the Dutch.’
England Head Coach Simon Letchford said: ‘I think there are positives to take from the time we have been in South Africa. As a group, we only had three training camps before coming here, so the younger members have learned a huge amount. What can we take from the game is how to be a better side. When we arrived we set no objectives, we just said we would go as deep as we could into the tournament. We are in the penultimate game, so we couldn’t go too much deeper.‘
The action continues today, Monday 11 April, at Northwest University, where the 9-14th places will be decided. The first match for the 13th position will see Wales take on Uruguay. Next up on the schedule, Zimbabwe will face Malaysia for 11th place, then Austria will take on Ireland in the battle for the ninth position.
The medal games will take place tomorrow:
|09:00||RSA – USA||7th-8th Place|
|11:15||KOR – ARG||5th-6th Place|
|13:30||IND – ENG||3rd-4th Place|
|15:45||NED – GER||Final|
Where to watch? Download the Watch.Hockey app for live streaming all matches, everywhere in the world.
Photographs: FIH / WorldSportpics (c)