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Netherlands book themselves a semi-final place with win over Korea

[img_assist|nid=4996|title=Semi-final bound|desc=Dutch fans celebrate – hockeyimages.co.uk|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=146]The Netherlands women became the first side to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games hockey semi-finals with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Korea in pool A of the women’s competition. 

GB’s 2-1 loss to China means the second qualifier from pool A will be decied on Monday. China trail Great Britain by two points. They play Japan; GB play the Netherlands and will need at least a draw if China win.  

Over in pool B, Argentina lead of goal difference from Australia and New Zealand on nine points thanks to their 3-1 win over Germany.

New Zealand can play themselves into the semi-finals with a win in Monday’s 8.30am game against Germany. Germany on six points aren’t completely out of the running but would need at least a three-goal win to overhaul New Zealand, and then hope that Australia didn’t take any points off Argentina. 

The Australia vs Argentina at 9.15pm will also be critical in a pool which could go to goal difference.

New Zealand kept themselves in a semi-final place with a 3-2 win over the USA. A Clarissa Eshuis penalty corner goal in the 64th minute decided the game which was level 2-2 at half time.

Back in pool B, expected smooth Dutch passage into the semi-final seemed in doubt after they went 1-0 down to a penalty corner from Korea’s Cheon Seul Ki. 

But the Dutch came back with open-play goals from Lidewij Welten – who deflected a Maartje Paumen drive goalwards – and Ellen Hoog who was set up in front of goal by Naomi van As.

A third Dutch goal from Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, again set up by van As, straight after half time was enough to see the Dutch home despite another excellent Cheon corner in the 64th minute.

Dutch coach Max Caldas said: “It was a hard game. I think it was very intense. Once again we failed to put the game away as we had the chances to do.We kave the keeper a lot of bruises but didn’t score a lot of goals.

“We have played Japan, China and Korea in succession and we are tired,” Caldas said. But the Dutch will not be taking it easy for Monday evening’s 7pm game vs Great Britain. “We are not like that with each other. We always want to get better,” Caldas said.

“We are going to play one of the foremost contenders for a gold medal. It is never an easy game against them. But there are nearly two days to recover as it is an evening game.

“We have qualified for the semi-finals and we want more,” he said.

Australia kept their semi-final hopes alive with a 1-0 win over South Africa, but apart from a nice hit finish from the top of the circle by Jade Close, there were few highlights. Australia’s succession of missed passes and some poor marking would have been punished by a more polished side than South Africa. T

The Hockeyroos will have to raise their game to get any sort of result against Argentina at on Monday.

At the bottom end of pool A, Jill Boon scored Belgium’s first ever goal in women’s Olynpic hockey, a penalty stroke in her side’s 1-1 draw with Japan. Yukari Yamamoto scored for Japan with a neat reverse finish.

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