The final of the women’s FIH Pro League competition will be contested between home favourites the Netherlands and Australia following two fiercely contested semi-final matches, with both teams overcoming monumental challenges posed by Germany and Argentina – who will play for bronze – at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen. The final and bronze medal matches take place on Saturday 29 June.
Argentina (FIH World Ranking: 4) made a sparkling start to the first semi-final and needed less than four minutes to open the match scoring, with Julieta Jankunas showing a cool head to eliminate Australia (WR:3) goalkeeper Rachael Lynch and fire into an empty goal after Carla Rebecchi sparked a rapid counter-attack.
Having largely dominated the play and scoring chances, it was a lead that Las Leonas deservedly took into the quarter-time break, although the Hockeyroos improved greatly in the second period and, despite numerous chances for the Argentineans, pulled level on the stroke of half time. A penalty corner drag-flick from Jodie Kenny drew the Hockeroos level, with the effort taking a huge deflection from the stick of Argentine defender Victoria Sauze to deceive goalkeeper Belen Succi and find the bottom right corner.
The third quarter was tense and twitchy with neither side able to take control, although it was the South Americans who came closest to a winner in the final period as Agustina Albertarrio, Florencia Habif and Eugenia Trinchinetti all had clear sights of goal but failed to test the goalkeeper.
The result was eventually settled by a shoot-out that saw both teams gain slim advantages before finishing with the scores locked at 3-3, triggering sudden death. Rosie Malone put the Hockeyroos into a 4-3 lead, meaning that Silvina D’Elia had to score in order to keep the contest alive. However, Australia goalkeeper Lynch – later named Player of the Match – did everything in her power to stop D’Elia from getting her shot away, with the clock timing out the Argentinean player as Australia reached the final of the FIH Pro League.
“I’m super excited, I’m so happy”, said Australia’s Brooke Peris after the match. “Lynchy was outstanding in the one-on-ones, as was Rosie [Malone]. Some times you win like that and I guess we deserve to go through, and I’m very excited for the weekend.”
Argentina’s Agustina Albertarrio said: I think it was hard game and we deserved to win, but now we have to look forward to the [bronze medal] game.”
Australia awaited the winner of the second semi-final, as hosts and FIH Pro League table-toppers the Netherlands (WR:1) faced Germany (WR:5), who finished the regular season in fourth place. The Oranje were heavy favourites, but it was Germany who scored first and the proceeded to frustrate the world champions for long periods.
Die Danas took the lead one minute before the end of the first quarter and it was a strike to savour, with Rebecca Grote’s penalty corner drag-flick flying into the top left corner of the Dutch goal. The Netherlands battled hard but found the Germany defence at the top of their game, making numerous important blocks and also making full use of their video referral in order to overturn the award of a penalty stroke just before half time. Inspired by a Player of the Match performance from defender Sonja Zimmermann, Germany soaked up relentless Netherlands pressure in the third and fourth quarters, with goalkeeper Nathalie Kubalski brilliantly denying Frederique Matla and Xan de Waard while Pia Maerten’s showed terrific 3D skills to almost score for Germany very much against the run of play.
The Netherlands finally got the breakthrough they both needed and deserved in 52nd minute thanks to a wonderful defected effort from Frederique Matla, who guided a cross from the right into the bottom left corner just seconds after Germany’s Elisa Gräve had been given a yellow card five minute suspension. Gräve was still serving her suspension when Lidewij Welten scored the winner, producing a wonderful spin shot to pick out the bottom right corner and put the Netherlands into the gold medal match with a 2-1 victory.
“I’m really happy with the win in the end, but we didn’t really play our own game so I’m not very happy about that and that’s something we can definitely do better on Saturday [in the final]”, said Netherlands captain Eva de Goede. “We really wanted to start well, but we didn’t. Germany played really well though, so I’m really happy that we turned it around into a 2-1 victory for us.”
Germany captain Janne Müller-Wieland said: “We are gutted that we gave it away in the last minutes again, because we had a strong start, played really well. We weren’t afraid of the Dutch at all. It’s just annoying that we gave it away. Also, in the second half we had three cards and it is so tough to compete with such a nation being one person down. We did really well and will learn from it, but right now it’s just really annoying.”
The match between Netherlands and Germany was a special one for umpire Sarah Wilson, who took charge of her 100th international match. In recognition of this special achievement, Sarah was present with her Golden Whistle by Marieke Fleuren, European Hockey Federation President and FIH Executive Board member.