(Photo: © Wolfgang Sternberger)

The last day of pool matches here in Quilmes started with Germany who were already locked into the match for bronze holding the Netherlands, already through to the final, to a draw. Subsequently, Japan recorded its first ever Champions Trophy win, defeating Samsung World Cup semifinalist Spain, and in the day’s highlight match, Argentina beat Australia to join the Dutch in tomorrow’s final.

In game one, the Dutch started strong and had the game firmly lodged into the German half for the first ten minutes. After that, the Germans woke up and were able to create more forward pressure.

Their best chance came when a mistake by Minke Booij gave the ball to Nadine Ernsting-Krienke at the top of the circle. Ernsting-Krienke had trouble controlling the ball however, and great defensive work by goalkeeper Floortje Engels denied the German forward a shot on goal.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands suffered the dropout of nimble midfielder Maartje Goderie who broke down after a solo run down the right side line with an apparent hamstring injury sustained without external influence, and was out for the remainder of the game.

After much ineffective back and forth, the Netherlands stepped their game up during the last five minutes of the first half and created a string of chances including a long corner that got them on the scoreboard with 18-year-old Michelle van der Pols’ first international goal.

The second half developed much like the bigger part of the first with the Netherlands controlling the game but not making a bigger than necessary effort. Marc Lammers used the opportunity to give his least experienced players including Michelle van der Pols, Carlijn Welten, Eva de Goede, and Mignonne Meekels more playing time than they might otherwise have got.

Germany’s forays into the Dutch half were few and far between and hardly dangerous until the Olympic champions decided to take advantage of Holland’s increasing carelessness and cranked up their offensive work. They were able to get near the circle and create a handful of chances but soon enough, the Netherlands drew level again, and regained a firm grip on the proceedings.

Germany attacked in the last few minutes with growing desperation and intensity, and suddenly demonstrated the dangerousness they had previously lacked. Their efforts paid off when Nadine Ernsting-Krienke equalized with a great lob over the goalkeeper from a narrow angle, and the match ended 1:1.

The second encounter of the day was a preview of tomorrow’s relegation match between Spain and Japan. The Japanese came out firing on all cylinders and caught Spain off-guard with a first minute penalty corner that Toshie Tsukui converted with a direct hit to the right corner of the goal the passed under goalkeeper Lopez de Eguilaz and crashed into the backboard.

Japan continued to play their best hockey in this tournament so far, finally showing the skills that got them the 5th place at the World Cup last year and into this tournament. They had several more shots on goal in the first half that could well have extended their lead, including a fantastic reverse stick shot from Morimoto that hit the crossbar, another Morimoto reverse stick that went slightly wide, and a Toshie Tsukui penalty corner flick that just about cleared the crossbar.

As the game wore on, Spain got into it a little better, but overall, their performance today can still only be characterized as sluggish, low-spirited, and lacking motivation. The second half saw mostly inefficient bantering from both parties, with Japan still having the better opportunities, and Spain growing visibly more anxious as the clock ticked down.

The nervousness didn’t help, and the Spanish had their hands full just warding off several more good opportunities for Japan towards the end of the match, with their own best effort coming from Nuria Camon who played a good game today but could not save her team from defeat. Camon’s reverse stick shot narrowly missed the goal.

The match finally ended with Japan’s first points in this tournament, the Asians winning deservedly in their best match here in Quilmes so far, also benefitting from their opponents’ mediocre showing. The two teams meet again tomorrow in the match for 5th place, an encounter that promises some heated exchanges as both teams are keen to avoid relegation, with Japan motivated by today’s victory, and Spain eager to avenge today’s defeat.

The last match of the day was also going to be the most interesting, as it was the only one who had the potential to affect the composition of tomorrow’s classification matches. Argentina took on Australia, needing only a draw to go through to the final while the Hockeyroos needed to win to make the final.

Fuelled by the affection and enthusiasm of a stadium filled to capacity and beyond with their passionate supporters, the Leonas dispatched their counterparts swiftly and without much difficulty. After a somewhat slow start with the first goal only happening shortly before halftime as Noel Barrionuevo, the new Argentine penalty corner specialist, sank a straight hit, the Leonas picked up speed during the second half and dominated the game.

Even though Australia was far from an easy rival today, the hosts controlled the game well, working efficiently to ward off Australia’s attacks and applying constant pressure to the Aussie defense. A second goal by Daniela Maloberti shortly after the break sealed the fate of the Hockeyroos, and to the audible delight of the 6.300 spectators, Agustina Bouza added the icing on the cake in the 62nd minute with goal number three after a lovely solo and pass from Lucha Aymar.

The BDO Champions Trophy Quilmes 2007 thus concludes tomorrow with the relegation match between Japan and Spain, the bronze medal match between Australia and Germany, and the final between World Champions the Netherlands and hosts Argentina.

BDO Hockey Champions Trophy, Women
Results day 5: Saturday 20 January 2007
Spectators: 6’300

Netherlands : Germany 1:1 (1:0)
31. Michelle van der Pols 1:0; 68. Nadine Ernsting-Krienke 1:1

Spain : Japan 0:1 (0:1)
1. Toshie Tsukui 0:1

Argentina : Australia 3:0 (1:0)
34. Noel Barrionuevo 1:0; 42. Daniela Maloberti 2:0; 62. Agustina Bouza 3:0