Result: Netherlands v Argentina 4-0 (3-0)
It was the match that many people thought would be the final, but this World Cup is providing surprises every step of the way. What was not a surprise was the quality of the Netherlands side that took to the field for the second women's semi-final. What was more surprising was the ease with which the women in orange swept the challenge of the reigning champions aside to win the game by a convincing 4-0 scoreline.
"When you have scored two goals in the first 20 minutes you make it very hard for the opposition to play their game," said two-goal hero Kim Lammers. "We played a really good game tonight; probably the best we have played so far in the competition. Yes, we were scoring, but our defence and our tackling all over the field was also very good."
Argentina's case was not helped by the injury to Luciana Aymar. The player, who for so many years has been the inspiration and driving force, took to the field with a heavily-strapped right thigh and was effectively operating on half capacity for the entire match. Whether the eight-times FIH Player of the Year would have been able to stop the orange onslaught had she been fully fit is debatable but, with the core of the midfield missing, Argentina were chasing the game from the opening minutes.
Kelly Jonker came close to opening the scoring within four minutes but Belen Succi put in a first-class save to deny her. It was left to one of the new recruits to the Dutch squad to open the scoring. Xan de Waard (10') opened her international scoring account with a sweetly-taken reverse stick strike after running around the top of the circle and using clever footwork to lose the defenders.
In the 16th minute Maartje Paumen scored her seventh goal of the competition, with a penalty corner that when into the goal low and to the right of Belen and doubled the Dutch lead. Roos Drost, who has had an excellent tournament, nearly made it three, but her shot, taken on the bounce, was mistimed and Rosario Luchetti cleared the danger.
Argentina fought back and there were touches of brilliance from individuals within the squad, but there was a lack of cohesion to the squad and that ultimately was the undoing of Las Leona's challenge.
The Netherlands goalkeeper, Joyce Sombroek, was called into action infrequently, but when she was asked to perform she was excellent. A save from Carla Rebecchi was top class, and she also batted away a half-hearted attempt by Delfino Merino.
The game was effectively put to bed in the 22nd minute when Kim Lammers took the ball around Belen and as it popped up into the air, Lammers was able to bat it into the back of the net. Argentina had one more chance to reduce the deficit before half-time, when Daniela Sruoga fired the ball across Sombroek, but a diving Rebecchi couldn't connect.
After the break Argentina came back strongly and won two penalty corners, but with Aymar a shadow of her imperious best, these did not really threaten the Netherland's defence. Netherland's coach Max Caldas was concerned about his team's lack of goals in the second half and the fact that Argentina were able to create opportunities. "Every time you score an early goal that helps, but it also gives the opposition a longer time to get back into it. In the last half of the first half we lost our composure and in the start of the second half, we didn't put our chances away. It stayed a close game, but they are things we need to get better at."
It was not until the 70th minute of the game that Kim Lammers scored her second and Netherlands fourth goal. The move was started by Naomi van As, the tall midfielder glided past the Argentine defence before releasing Ellen Hoog with a beautifully weighted pass. Hoog shot and Lammers touched the ball to tip it past Succi.
"That was a big team effort today," said Lammers. Her coach added: "We needed to play that well to beat Argentina. We needed our best game yet to beat them and luckily that happened. Now we need to do the same in the final."
The match was not the showpiece it promised to be, but for hockey aficionados, the excellence of the Netherlands team cannot fail to set hearts beating. The Oranje now take on the Hockeyroos. The two sides met in the pool stages, where the Netherlands won 2-1.
Official Match Report (PDF)
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