Goal-less draw enough for kiwis to knock out Germany; Argentina finish top of Pool A after a lacklustre goalless tie against Australia; South Africa smash USA
New Zealand vs Germany 0-0 (half-time: 0-0)
New Zealand reached the semi-finals of the women’s Olympic Games for the first time as they got the draw they needed to qualify in the top two. In the process, they eliminated Germany who will end Pool B in a disappointing fourth place. It was a tie that ebbed and flowed with the kiwis looking to get an early lead to ease their nerves while the Germans took the initiative for much of the middle periods as they needed a big win to have any chance of progressing.
But goals never came despite a glut of chances as Yvonne Frank and Bianca Russell had huge games between the posts. Early on, Charlotte Harrison had a golden chance inside 30 seconds but only found the outside of the post from Anita Punt’s pullback. Katie Glynn was also set free one-on-one but Yvonne Frank timed her dive superbly to nudge the ball away. Harrison’s follow-up went dangerous as the kiwis were unable to capitalise despite being well on top.
Germany came back into the tie, winning a couple of corners while Lisa Hahn, Christina Schuetze, Maeke Stoeckel were all denied by Bianca Russell before the half’s main talking point. Two minutes before half-time, Stoeckel felt she had broken the deadlock, claiming a touch to Mandy Haase’s crash ball that whizzed into the backboard. The video replay, however, was inconclusive and so no decision possible, leading to a free out.
New Zealand continued to live on their wits in the second half as somehow Celine Wilde’s volley went over from less than a metre out from a Keller punt at goal. Krystal Forgesson’s arrowed cross was almost turned home by Glynn but for Frank’s excellent stop before Russell denied Kristina Hillmann and Marie Maevers – in her 50th international.
Julia Mueller had the ball in the net once again from a corner but it was once again disallowed for being too high – a hopeful referral once again went against the Germans. And as the goal-rush failed to materialise, German efforts became more ragged and less threatening, allowing the kiwis to play out time with few more worries in the closing phases, securing an historic result.
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Argentina vs. Australia: 0-0 (half-time: 0-0)
Unlike the last match of Pool A, where both teams were already qualified for the semi-finals and playing for position, only a win would qualify Australia in this last match of Pool B, any other result would qualify Argentina for the semi-finals.
Australia were threatening in the opening minutes, Emily Smith had an early chance on a ball stolen by Megan Rivers but the pass arrived slightly behind her. Both teams were playing cautiously in the first twenty minutes, avoiding taking any risk in defense. Play was somewhat scrappy and the numerous Australian and Argentinean fans in the stands had little opportunity for excitement.
Luciana Aymar tried to shake the proceedings with some of her trademark long runs, and Argentina was awarded a penalty-corner on a rough tackle by Anna Flanagan. They tried an option but the hit was well handled by Toni Cronk in the Australian goal. A few minutes later, Aymar ran away from the Australian defense but pushed the ball just a little too far to unleash a shot.
Half-time was reached on a goalless score, a worrying situation for the Australian team. Argentina started second period at full speed and thought that they had scored on a goalmouth scramble but Anna Flanagan managed a desperate save on a line to push away the danger. Argentina seemed to have decided that the best defense was the attack and maintained a sustained pressure on the Australian team, but there were no real threats for Toni Cronk.
At the tail end of swift counter-attack between Luciana Aymar and Carla Rebecchi, Rocio Sanchez Moccia forced a penalty-corner, but Cronk was again up to the task on Noel Barrionuevo’s low flick. With time running out, Australia had a desperate surge to score the precious goal they needed but somehow could not manage to threaten Florencia Mutio in the Argentinean goal, even after replacing their goal-keeper with an extra field-player with 4 minutes to go and Argentinean Sofia Maccari received a green card.
Soon the Argentinean fans were singing in the stands, while the Australian players were left bitterly disappointed. With the 0-0 tie, Argentina finish on top of pool A with the same number of point as New Zealand, but a better goal difference (+8 against +4), leaving Australia at the door of the semi-final.
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USA 0 South Africa 7 (half-time: 0-4)
South Africa ran riot in their final group game to lift themselves off the basement and into the ninth place play-off, getting the big win they needed to leap-frog USA. Initially, their target was a five-goal win and they were virtually there by half-time. Tarryn Bright got them on the board in the 14th minute and they never looked back, the first time South Africa had scored at corner time in the tournament.
Further goals from Lesle-Ann George, Jen Wilson and Pietee Coetzee made it 4-0 at the break. Bright nabbed her second early, mopping up from Damons’ initial shot while Dirkie Chamberlain tapped in a corner rebound fro number six. Coetzee’s second – and her 248th in her international career – from another corner completed the rout on a miserable morning for the US with the Africans had their first win of the campaign.
South Africa go into Wednesday's playoff for ninth place, defying their rankas the tournament's lowest seeds, while the USA are back in action on Friday as they bid to avoid the wooden spoon.
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