(5th-6th) China vs. Australia: 0-2 (half-time: 0-0)
Battle for 5th place was a tight fight, but Australia were slightly better at converting their chances.
In front of another capacity crowd of 16,000 spectators enjoying the hockey and the sunshine, China slightly dominated possession in the early stages of the match, but there was no danger whatsoever for the longest time for either goalkeeper, Toni Cronk for Australia and Zhang Yimeng in her bright pink jersey for China.
China could not take advantage of a series of penalty-corners, weakly taken, and the best opportunity of the first twenty minutes was for Megan Rivers, receiving the ball with space at the top of the circle but shooting just wide. Georgia Nanscawen was very active around the circle, creating chances for her teammates, and on a penalty-corner Anna Flanagan thought that she had scored, but the goal was called back after a video-referral.
Madonna Blyth then Jade Close had strong, but unsuccessful, attempts on goal and the two teams were still tied at 0-0 going into the half-time break, despite a last second penalty-corner for Australia.
Anna Flanagan scored again on a penalty-corner early in second period, but China appealed again to the video-umpire and the goal was denied again... The crowd was getting annoyed by the constant arguing of the Chinese players, but they could not talk their way out of a penalty-stroke in the 41st minute, superbly converted by Jodie Schulz to finally open the scoring.
Australia were now camping in the Chinese half and had a handful of penalty-corners but they could not manage to beat Zhang Yimeng in goal, leaving themselves exposed to the Chinese counter-attacks. On one of them, Li Hongxia found Song Qingling in the circle but her shot crashed on the post with the keeper beaten. Australia had another scare on a Ma Yibo penalty-corner and finally gave themselves some breathing room when Jade Close received the ball in the circle and slammed it in goal with 10 minutes to go.
Australia finished in 5th place, higher than their entry ranking of 7th. They will however regret the opening day defeat by New Zealand (0-1) that made the difference for semi-final qualification.
China, with inconsistent results in this competition, finished 6th, one spot lower than their entry ranking, a far cry from their silver medal performance in Beijing.
For more information on CHN v AUS, click here.
(11th-12th) Belgium vs. USA: 2-1 (half-time: 1-1)
Playing in their first ever Olympic competition, Cinderella Belgium overcame an early USA goal to finish with a 2-1 win and a strong performance considering their World ranking of 16th.
The USA were quick off the mark and Paige Selenski opened the scoring in the 7th minute of play, shooting after a decisive circle penetration then coolly picking up the clearance from a defender to slam it in the roof of the net.
Charlotte de Vos had a strong shot on goal soon after but it was well paraded by Amy Tran-Swensen in the American goal, before Alix Gerniers capped a period of Belgian domination with a swift run around the USA defense and a sudden reverse shot past Tran for the equalizer.
The USA had a series of penalty-corners and tried various strikers but the half-time break was reached with the score tied at 1-1.
In second period, both teams decided to play an open attacking game for their last appearance on the Olympic scene and goalkeepers were called into action at both ends. Shannon Taylor thought that she had scored for the USA but a Belgian video-referral proved that there was a foul, and it was Erica Coppey who finally broke the deadlock for Belgium, finding the ball in a furious goalmouth scramble that followed a messed-up penalty-corner.
Desperate to tie the score, the USA replaced their goal-keeper with an additional field player with 8 minutes to go, an unusual move. Their gambit nearly backfired on the first Belgium attack before kicking-back Lauren Crandall managed to clear her circle. However, even with the additional player, they never managed to pressure enough a Belgian defense throwing everything in the ring to protect their narrow lead.
Belgium, the Cinderella of the competition, finished 11th for their first Olympic appearance. They were never outplayed and surprised many observers when they tied much higher ranked China (0-0) and Japan (1-1).
The USA finished with the wooden spoon; they were certainly hoping for a better conclusion, especially after defeating World Champions Argentina (1-0) on the second day of Olympic competition.
For more information on BEL v USA, click here.
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