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Results in Amsterdam today have ensured that the participants in the tournament decider of the women’s Rabo Hockey Champions Trophy will not be decided until the final round robin phase on Saturday.
Germany’s victory over New Zealand combined with Argentina’s win and the draw between China and the Netherlands, has ensured that any number of combinations are still possible for the final, with each of these four teams in contention heading in the last preliminary round matches.
Heading into their match against China knowing that a victory would given them a place in Sunday’s decider and with it a chance to play for a third successive Champions Trophy title, the Netherlands were not able to control the play as they had in previous encounters and fell behind soon after half time .
However an equaliser midway through the second term gave them the initiative but they couldn’t breach the Chinese defence for the winning goal despite a number of near misses.
The result has given Saturday’s final round of matches an intriguing look. Depending on the results of the earlier matches, Netherlands will likely need to defeat Argentina to earn the chance to defend the titles won in 2004 (Rosario) and 2005 (Canberra).
However Argentina are slowly improving and with matches between the two countries usually highly passionate and extremely close, the home team will face their toughest test so far.
Germany’s equation is far simpler, with a win against Australia sending them to the Champions Trophy final for the second time in three years.
The opening match of today’s schedule between Germany and New Zealand was most notable because it featured the first decision by the video umpire for the tournament.
The decision came in Germany’s opening score of the match with Natascha Keller’s shot from the edge of the circle sent to the video umpire by match official Judy Barnesby for review. After a short review, the goal was awarded and Germany was on their way to another victory, their third in the tournament.
However Germany were made to work hard against the Black Sticks who were more adventurous in attack and were unlucky not to score in the second half as a number of good chances slipped agonisingly wide of the goal.
Earlier, reigning WorldHockey Player of the Year, Luciana Aymar, scored after the full time siren from a penalty corner to give Argentina a deserved win against Australia and keep Las Leonas in with a slim chance of the title.
However they waited until the last possible opportunity to grab maximum points, with a mountain of second half possession finally transferred into a goal after the awarding of the decisive penalty corner with about 20 seconds remaining.
Aymar’s late winner condemns Australia to the last place playoff for the first time in Champions Trophy history. The six-time winners have an impressive Champions Trophy record in this event, having finished out of the medals only twice in 13 previous attempts.
The South Americans again produced a first half effort that would not have pleased their supporters but in the second term they dominated proceedings with Australia hard pressed to possess the ball inside their attacking half, except for Nikki Hudson’s goal that came after a poor turnover by the Argentine defence.
In Saturday’s matches, China meet New Zealand at 10:00 followed by Germany’s clash with Australia at 12:00. The final match of the day is between Argentina and the Netherlands at 14:00.
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