The Australia women will face trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand on Monday with their World Cup destiny still in their own hands, as they are placed at 2nd place in Pool A with 9 points followed by Korea and New Zealand at 3rd and 4th with 7 and 6 points after victories over Belgium (4-2) and Japan (4-1) respectively in Pool A matches of the day.
Kim Lammers’ near post deflection midway through the second half gave the Dutch the lead before Naomi Van As’s late strike made it 2-0.
It might have been a different outcome but for the heroics of home goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek, whose athleticism and reflexes thwarted Emily Hurtz, Jodie Kenny and Anna Flanagan as Australia came out of the traps quickly. The Hockeyroos’ energy and pressing attack had already caused the Olympic champions problems in the opening few minutes with Georgie Parker creating an early sight of goal before Emily Hurtz saw her deflection fly over the top.
In a pulsating encounter, the Hockeyroos were also made to work hard in defence with captain Madonna Blyth, Kenny and Kirstin Dwyer all making telling interceptions in the first period. At the other end, Kenny and Flanagan found the Dutch defence determined to prevent them from displaying their penalty corner prowess.
In the second half, Dutch set piece expect Maartje Paumen fired two corners wide of Ashlee Wells’ left post before teammate Kelly Jonker missed the target with a back post deflection. But with 57 minutes on the clock Lammers struck, finishing off a flowing counter attack after Australian Ashleigh Nelson had seen her tomahawk shot deflected wide. As the Hockeyroos pushed for a way back into the game they were grateful to Wells for a good double save. With five minutes remaining, however, the outcome was settled as Van As drove right inside the circle and fired home for 2-0.
Despite the defeat, the nature of the Australian performance pleased Head Coach Adam Commens, who said, “It was a fantastic match and a great advertisement for women’s hockey. Both teams played some really enterprising hockey. I thought, particularly in the second half, the Dutch team held the ball really well, moved it around the pitch nicely and they went with real power on the counter.
“I thought that in the first half our girls played a very spirited game. They worked hard, they were low in the contests and when they won the ball they moved it quite well and a lot cleaner than they had in the previous matches, so a great match for women’s hockey and a fantastic spectacle.
“In international hockey, and when you look at the great match we had last night between the Netherlands and Germany [men’s sides], you have to take your chances. Unfortunately, we didn’t take ours tonight and the Dutch were able to take theirs and they were very well taken at that, as well.”
Captain Madonna Blyth added, “It was most definitely our best game of the tournament so far and probably some of the best hockey we’ve played against the Dutch over the last couple of years. It was a pretty high paced match and we had to work pretty hard, and obviously when we’re trying to get a goal back it gets a bit scrappy at the end. I thought our girls did really well and if we play like that moving forward we should have some great results.”
The Hockeyroos can guarantee their place in next Thursday’s semi finals with victory over New Zealand on Monday (6:30pm AEST). Should they draw that match, they will require the Netherlands to either draw with or beat Korea, who sit two points behind them.