Tokyo: World No. 1 Australia will meet four-time champions Germany in the semifinals of the men’s hockey competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games after overcoming favourites, the Netherlands, in a thrilling shootout.
Australia, who topped Pool A, were meeting the fourth-placed team in Pool B but they could not have taken things lightly as the Dutch are a force to reckon with in world hockey. Their clash on Sunday ended in a 2-2 stalemate at the end of regulation time. But, in extra time, Australia won 3-0 in a shootout tie-breaker.
Despite this being a meeting between the winner of Pool A and the team that finished fourth in Pool B, the undefeated Kookaburras were given a huge test by the Netherlands, who produced their best performance of the competition by far to push the Oceania giants all the way.
Australia took the lead when Tom Wickham forced home a close-range field goal after excellent work from Tim Brand, scoring 13 minutes into the first half in which the Netherlands had the most scoring opportunities but were thwarted by the brilliance of Kookaburras goalkeeper Andrew Charter.
The Oranje snatched a deserving equaliser early in the third period when Mink van der Weerden found the gap between Charter’s legs from a penalty corner. However, the Australians were soon back in front, with outstanding Brand and Wickham combining again for the latter to slap-shoot into the Netherlands goal via the right post.
The Dutch again hit back via a perfectly-placed penalty stroke from Jeroen Hertzberger 10 minutes from time after Mirco Pruijser’s goal-bound shot hit the body of an Australian defender, setting up a shoot-out for a place in the semifinals.
Australia emerged triumphant in the one-on-one, with Charter producing goalkeeping heroics to deny Hertzberger, Robbert Kemperman and Jonas de Geus before rising star Brand sealed victory following productive efforts from Blake Govers and Flynn Ogilvie. It was a moment of redemption for Australia, who suffered a shoot-out defeat against the Netherlands in the semifinals of the FIH Men’s World Cup 2018.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s hopes of defending the Olympic title that they so brilliantly won at Rio 2016 ended thanks to a clinical performance from Germany, who moved into the semifinals with a 3-1 win and continued their hunt for a 12th men’s hockey medal in Olympic competition.
Die Honamas scored three times from just four penalty-corner opportunities, an intimidating conversion rate that will not go unnoticed by the respective coaches of the other teams that reach the final four.
Germany’s first penalty-corner chance resulted in a re-award, with Lukas Windfeder making no mistake with his team’s second chance by rattling the backboard of the Argentina goal in the 19th minute.
The Rio 2016 bronze medallists extended their advantage in the third quarter when Timm Herzbruch deflected home an exceptionally-worked routine, with a precise exchange of passes leaving Argentina’s defenders bewildered and giving goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi — who made some incredible saves in this contest – no chance.
Windfeder took the score to 3-0 with another ripping drag-flick 12 minutes from time before Argentina pulled a goal back thanks to Maico Casella’s penalty-corner drag-flick.