Olympic women’s titleholder the Netherlands put away Germany 2-0 on Saturday to roll into the field hockey quarterfinals unbeaten and with a familiar foe on the horizon.
The Dutch will line up against Argentina in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup on Monday.
They played for the gold medal at the 2012 London Games, and were predicted to repeat that in Rio de Janeiro, but Argentina surprisingly struggled in pool play, losing to the United States and Britain, and scrambling to beat Australia 1-0 on Thursday to stay in the medal hunt. The Argentines saw off India 5-0 on Saturday and eliminated India and Japan from advancing from the pool stage.
Hours later, Australia beat winless Japan 2-0 to confirm third place and ensure Argentina finished fourth in Pool B, scheduling Pool A winner Netherlands in the first knockout round.
The other quarterfinals are: Britain vs. Spain; United States vs. Germany; and New Zealand vs. Australia.
The Dutch were chastened after drawing with New Zealand 1-1 on Friday, the only goal they conceded in the pool stage.
“We just lost the focus (against New Zealand), and we got together yesterday and we talked about that, and the focus is back, hopefully,” Netherlands coach Alyson Annan-Thate said.
The Dutch hit the ground running, an unmarked Xan de Waard giving Germany goalkeeper Kristina Reynolds no chance in the fifth minute. Reynolds was kept busy through a scoreless second quarter, and the Dutch made certain of victory at the end of the third, when Lidewij Welten dribbled into the circle, bamboozled two defenders, and laid off to an unmarked Kitty van Male, whom Reynolds reacted too late to.
Argentina scored four times in six minutes against winless India to reach halftime 5-0 up, then eased off having secured one of the last two quarterfinal berths.
Spain grabbed the other berth ahead of higher-ranked China.
Spain failed to qualify for the 2012 London Games and 2014 World Cup, and was invited to Rio last November when South Africa declined to send its African champion women’s team. Spain made it to the quarterfinals in Rio by coming from behind against South Korea and then holding on to win 3-2.
South Korea scored early and Spain didn’t equalize until the second half, thanks to Begona Garcia’s superb angle off the bottom of her stick. Two penalty corner goals, the second one ricocheting off two defenders, appeared to settle the outcome at 3-1, but South Korea scored with five minutes to go and pulled off its goalkeeper in search of a face-saving draw. It almost earned it.
A Spanish defender had to whip away a bouncing ball in the goalmouth, and goalie Maria Lopez de Equilaz gloved away South Korea’s last penalty corner attempt.
“My heart was bouncing but I was trusting in everybody,” Lopez de Equilaz said.
Spain had to wait another three hours to see how China fared. If China drew with or beat New Zealand, it not only would have made the quarters, but also could have risen from fifth to second in Pool A, above the Kiwis and Germans. China had to come out of its shell and score goals, though, and the Black Sticks found gaps in the defense for field goals by Olivia Merry, Gemma Flynn and Anita McLaren with more than a quarter left.
Their trans-Tasman rival Australia, which started pool play with two losses, bagged a third straight win, though a defense-minded Japan made the Hockeyroos sweat for the goals by Mariah Williams and Emily Smith. Japan had only two shots on goal in the whole match, and none in the last three quarters.
Britain was the only women’s (or men’s) team to go perfect through pool play with five wins out of five, after knocking over the previously unbeaten United States 2-1 in the Pool B decider.
Goalie Jackie Briggs kept the U.S. alive in a scoreless first half, and they scored first against the run of play when Michelle Vittese scooped up loose ball, drove into the circle, and lashed in a ground shot. Undeterred, Britain levelled with seven minutes to go, Sophie Bray angling in a penalty corner by the post, and went ahead three minutes later after Alex Danson played in Sam Quek’s fast pass.
Britain was reduced to nine players in the last minute, but America’s last-gasp penalty corner was saved by goalie Maddie Hinch.
“If you’d offered us top spot at the start of the week I’d have bitten your hand off,” Britain captain Kate Richardson-Walsh said. “(I’m) really, really proud of the momentum we’ve created.”
The men’s quarterfinals on Sunday are, in order: Spain vs. Argentina; Belgium vs. India; Netherlands vs. Australia; and Germany vs. New Zealand.