The 15th edition of the Women’s World Cup reaches the semi-final stages this weekend. The Hockey Paper looks at the matches at Estadi Olimpico
NETHERLANDS v AUSTRALIA
Saturday: 6:30pm (local time), Weather: 36C
The mercury is rising for a final berth with the perennial world champions (the Dutch have eight titles in 15 editions) against the two-time winners, in a repeat of the 2014 final in The Hague.
Saturday’s match will be played out in searing Spanish heat, while both teams enter this encounter undefeated from the group stages and qualifying directly for the quarters.
The Netherlands beat Belgium 2-1 in their biggest test to date and Australia – fourth in 2018 – ousted Spain to deny a co-hosts showdown in the last four.
By this stage at the last World Cup in London, the Dutch had accrued 26 goals in their one-way assault to the title. Things have gone a little differently this time around, with 11 goals in their four matches.
The ‘give and go’ hockey the Dutch women have mastered was below their high standards, with Freeke Moes, who scored the match-winning goal against Belgium, admitting that they had focused too much on their unerring skills over shots on goal.
“We can do better than we currently show,” she said. “We can play beautiful hockey and lose to Belgium in the quarter-finals. Or we grow like we are in the tournament and go to Spain. Then I prefer the latter.”
The Hockeyroos have now made eight semi-finals from the past nine World Cups. Here in Terrassa they overcame Belgium 2-0 in the group stages and also scored twice in matches against Japan, South Africa and the win over Spain.
Should they reach the final, it would represent one of the biggest shocks in recent years in the women’s game given Australia last played a major tournament at Tokyo 2020.
ARGENTINA v GERMANY
Saturday: 21:30pm (local time), Weather: 31C
Two teams which fell at the quarter-final stages of the 2018 World Cup meet in the late push back in Terrassa.
Germany arrived from Amsterdam on Wednesday evening and have slept late and trained later in the day as they adapt to the heavier Terrassa pitch.
If England had topped their Pool they would have met Germany in the last eight in Amsterdam. Instead, it’s Die Danas who beat them to their first World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2010, when England also reached the last four in Argentina.
It was Argentina who beat Germany that day, with Die Danas facing the same opposition 12 years on.
Germany coach Valentin Altenburg, who took over from Belgian Xavier Reckinger at the start of the year, summed up the current state of play. “Argentina is the absolute powerhouse in world hockey,” he said. “They won the FIH Pro League, are defensively strong, have a very good corner and simply have everything a world-class team needs.”
Die Danas would have been buoyed at the way England managed to negate the PC threat from Agustina Albertarrio, while Maria Granatto was largely kept quiet – or has she yet to fulfill her potential in the big matches?
As for their own title credentials, Germany might also look back to a moment against New Zealand when they had to defend with nine players after late greens and the Kiwis with 11 outfield players. They passed the test after that brief scare, but also looked to be able to counter at the same time.
Since Germany beat Argentina 3-2 in the 2018 World Cup group stages, Las Leonas have won eight of their last 11 meetings, including both Pro League games in May and the Olympic quarter-finals in Tokyo on their way to silver.
Germany, though, have kept a clean sheet in their last three World Cup games in Amsterdam and are the only side of the four to have played one more game following their cross-over.
At the other end, they have notched 26 PC chances and found the net with one. Argentina, meanwhile, had notched 33 PCs with 11 goals before their sole effort against England.
Benedetta Wenzel told Germany’s press agency dpa: “We will play without pressure and anything can happen in a World Cup semi-final.” Can they stop goalkeeper Belen Succi, in her last tournament for Las Leonas?
What they say
“I want to open up thought processes for the long term and want to get away from these self-fulfilling prophecies like: The Germans are only defeated when they are on the bus. Ditto: Argentina’s or Holland’s ladies are unbeatable. They are not. I want us to go into every game over and over again. Our glass is always empty and we can refill it.”
Valentin Altenburg (before the World Cup)
Hockey Paper predictions
NED 1 AUS 1 (3-1 shoot-out)
ARG 2 GER 1