The woman’s final of the 2012 Hockey tournament saw the Olympic holders Netherlands take on the team that took Germany apart in Athens in 2004, the impressive and dominant Argentina.
The Netherlands were aiming to emulate the great Australian team of 1996 and 2000 and become only the second woman’s side to retain the Olympic gold medal spot. The Netherlands would have surely been buoyed by the sight of their male compatriots thrashing the Great Britain side the night before in the Riverbank Arena and although many would have had Argentina down as strong favourites, there would have been no doubting the resolve in the Dutch line up.
Indeed the women in orange had a great chance in the first couple of minutes to put the Argentinians under pressure but for some quick thing defensive work, the people the other side of the North Sea would have been cheering loudly.
Argentina gained the first penalty corner of the final after some very good close combined foot and stick work which only just went narrowly wide after a good hit by Barrionuevo. Argentina has made the last four in each of the previous Olympics but has never actually tasted the sweet taste of gold. They are perhaps the greatest women’s side to have never attained the gold medal and they would have been desperate to a woman to improve on the two bronze and silver they currently have in their collective lockers.
The first half of the game may have been missing some of the temperament of the two semi-finals but there was certainly every bit of desire creeping through as the women pummelled and jostled each other to gain the opening goal. No advantage seemed to be taken and certainly and quarter given for the vast majority of the half then a silly sliding tackle in the area led to a Dutch penalty corner. Normally the women, and the men from the Netherlands use this to devastating effect, as the British found out to their cost the day before but this time the Argentinians were ready for it and the possibility of an opening goal was snuffed out.
Another penalty corner given to the Netherlands as the time ran down saw the Argentinian keeper, Del Colle, pull off two world class saves in quick succession. Even if the half time score read 0-0, there was no questioning the intensity and excitement of the game.
It took nearly 20 minutes of the second half for the deadlock to be finally broken as The Netherlands got another penalty corner and this time made sure of going in the lead as Dirkse Van Den Heuvel lifted the ball above the despairing head of Del Colle to give those back in Holland the chance to relax briefly.
That wasn’t to be as the chance of a quick revival came seconds later but as quick as the Argentinian defence was in the first half so were the Dutch and as the Argentinian players stopped and seemed to argue amongst themselves, the women from the Netherlands sped away with the ball and took the ball up the other end. The Argentinian defence were fortunate to survive such a quick break away.
The survival instincts were beginning to let the Argentinian side down and as the Dutch turned the screw on the opposition, two quick penalty corners on the trot saw Maartje Paumen deliver one of the great goals of Olympic Hockey squarely off the underside of the crossbar and into the net. Not only was it a great goal from a penalty corner, it was also possibly one of the best celebrations of relief seen in London since Stuart Pearce put the penalty hoodoo of 1990 behind as he scored against the Spanish in 1996. This was truly expansive hockey, gentle on the eye, intensely superb to watch and if The Netherlands were going to repeat the success of 2008 then they deserved to in style.
In the last ten minutes the Argentine side looked beaten, lacking ideas and with no thought on how to get back into a game that in all honesty they didn’t deserve to win.
This has been a great tournament for the Dutch, they have played like demons, they have played with the spirit of the game and much more than that, they played as a team.
They join the great Australia side of 1996 and 2000 to become only the second women’s team to defend the Olympic crown since women’s hockey was introduced into the Games in Moscow in 1980. Third time winners overall, this is going to be a team that looks like never wanting to give up that gold medal. To a woman the team gave everything and rightly so they are top of the world.
Netherlands: Sombroek, Dirkse Van Den Heu, Jonker, Van Maasakker, Paumen, Van As, Hodge, Polkamp, Lammers, De Goede, De Blaume.
Substitutes: Van Male, Goderie, Welten, Agliotti, Van Geffen.
Manager: Clarinda Sinnige.
Argentina: Luchetti, Rodriguez-Perez, Aymar, Rebecchi, Merino, Sruoga, Scarone, D’elia, Barrionuevo, Sruoga, Mutio.
Substitutes: Del Colle, Cavallero, Habif, Sanchez Moccia, Maccari.
Manager: Alejandro Doherty.
Final Score: Netherlands 2-0 Argentina
Goal scorers: Paumen, Dirkse Van Den Heu (Netherlands)
Ian D. Hall