(Photo: © Wolfgang Sternberger)

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The Netherlands overcame a tough Australian challenge to win the Samsung Hockey World Cup and confirm their status as the queens of world hockey in Madrid this afternoon.

The world number one was too strong for Australia in a match that lacked a lot of the drama and excitement that usual accompanies a major tournament final, but still produced a worthy winner as the Dutch completed an unbeaten campaign in style.

Hoisting the World Cup makes amends for a pair of consecutive final defeats for the Netherlands after they were edged in 1998 and 2002 for top spot on the medal dais.

The first half of the decider was played at an even tempo but failed to interest the crowd (who were unusually quite), save for a video umpire decision nearing half time with the Netherlands having a goal to Sylvia Karres denied after review.

After the half time break, the Netherlands pressed the Australian defence which caused multiple turnovers, before that possession was finally transferred to the scoreboard with Maartje Paumen guiding a drag flick low into the left corner.

The goal energised the Dutch and they had a period of complete dominance before Australia turned the tide with a length of the field attack that resulted in a penalty stroke which Rebecca Sanders converted.

After earlier having a goal disallowed by the video umpire, there was little doubt about Karres’ effort 15 minutes from full time however when she controlled a loose ball and fired a reverse stick through the legs of the Australian goalkeeper.

With the match entering its final five minutes, the Netherlands received a penalty stroke of their own to increase their margin to two goals and ensure they would win their first World Cup since 1990.

Earlier, Argentina claimed the bronze medal with a five-goal thrashing of Spain that said as much about the temperament of the home team as it did the desire of the South Americans.

Both teams appeared over-excited at the start of the match and struggled to contain their emotions, but Argentina was able to harness their excitement into positive play more effectively than Spain, with an early barrage of goals stunning the home crowd.

After a defensive strategy took them to within one goal of the World Cup final, Spain were adventurous in the match and it worked against them, with play rebounding from circle to circle with little structure or composure from either team.

Two Spanish players were issued with yellow cards for dissent in the match, with the first half especially littered by niggling incidents as Argentina raced to a three-goal lead after just 13 minutes.

Although the second half was played at a more sustainable tempo, Argentina still had the better of scoring chances with another two goals added to confirm a massive victory.

In the playoff for seventh position, England took better advantage of their scoring chances to defeat Germany and end their tournament on a winning note.

After taking a two-goal lead into half time, England conceded a goal soon after the break as Germany surged into contention. However a missed penalty stroke with 20 minutes to go

Germany was one of the disappointments of this World Cup and never discovered anything near their best form despite a good preparation and Champions Trophy victory in July.

Awards
Player of the Tournament: Nuria Camon (Spain)
Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Amy Tran (USA)
Young Player of the Tournament: Carla Rebecchi (Argentina)
Fair Play Trophy: South Africa
Highest Goal Scorer: Sylvia Karres (Netherlands)

Final Placings
1. Netherlands
2. Australia
3. Argentina
4. Spain
5. Japan
6. USA
7. England
8. Germany
9. Korea
10. China
11. India
12 South Africa