Saturday, May 18, 2024

Women’s Hockey World Cup: Netherlands and Germany scrape through to semi-finals

This was the Netherlands’ 100th Women’s World Cup match. But how Belgium looked to scupper their centenary with a milestone victory of their own.

Belgium, playing their first World Cup last eight, had deservedly equalised in the second-half, putting some momentary doubt into the Wagener Stadium faithful before Freeke Moes’ fortunate goal 12 minutes from time put the world No 1 side into Saturday’s semi-final against Australia or Spain.

Yet victory never seemed certain. Frederique Matla was kept quiet for the third match running and Belgium, even with 70 seconds left, were finding late PCs. But Stephanie Vanden Borre’s final hit was dealt with and the Oranje had stuttered over the line. 

Early on, Maria Vershoor, overlooked for the 2018 World Cup, was the Oranje’s biggest threat with two half-chances, Belgium having somehow soaked up the first quarter without conceding.

That changed on the stroke of the break when Aisling D’hooghe was finally beaten. Eva de Goede picked up from a cross-field pass, spotted Laurien Leurink, who deflected in. It was a world-class three-way interchange.

D’Hooghe was tapping away threats in the second quarter, one tip save bobbling across goal with the post saving the Dutch from a two-goal lead. 

They certainly deserved their equaliser, silencing the 10,000 sell out when Alix Gerniers tipped in from a Vanden Borre ball. And with Belgium down to 10.

The largely subdued atmosphere had been forced by Belgium’s patient structure. By hook or by crook, the Dutch, for all their chances, made their own luck by going back in front. 

A Dutch attack had looked to have been squashed when Moes failed to get a decent pass across goal, but her scuffed shot somehow deflected under D’Hooghe’s body into the net. Moments later she seemed to have scored with a spin and backhand shot. For a fleeting monent, the backboard sound was heard, the angle suggesting it had hit the post.

Die Danas advance

Germany and tournament hockey are usually united, thus it has been a surprise that Die Danas had only reached the World Cup semi-finals twice in 24 years before Tuesday’s clash.

But Die Danas advanced to a third semi-final with either Argentina or England after a 1-0 win in which they dominated for large periods until a brief late onslaught from New Zealand.

New Zealand had last beaten Germany in a major tournament (World Cup or Olympics) at the 1990 World Cup and that statistic continued as Die Danas led through Lena Micheel’s 17th minute goal and managed to maintain. 

The goal was scored in a half which saw Germany dominate the Kiwis and hit the post (and twice overall).

The Black Sticks did edge closer in the second half. On two occasions deflected corners went agonisingly past the German left post without the required tip in needed to force a shoot-out.

Three minutes from time, the ball broke on the baseline to Rose Tynan who ran across the D before taking one too many touches. It was the last hurrah in the German circle as they held on.


World Cup format fail

Earlier, Ireland finished 11th after a lacklustre showing against China in a 3-1 defeat.

Their placing was their third best finish at a Women’s World Cup, while Alyson Annan’s China ended their campaign in ninth. 

China nearly produced an audacious lob to finish proceedings, which would have sparked the moment of the afternoon after another forgettable lower ranking match.

Chile opened the day with another performance to savour as Segio Vigil’s side beat South Africa 1-0. It was their second win of the tournament after toppling Ireland in the pool stages as they finished 13th.

These ranking classification matches have, however, been a disappointment. 

Three of the four teams which finished bottom of the four Pools ended up playing for higher rankings – it would have been four but for a late Indian leveller against Canada – as the third-placed sides faced travel and quick turnarounds.

The FIH would be wise to change the format for the next World Cup. 

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