Women reach World Cup final

13 June 2014

HOCKEY: The Australian women's hockey team has made it into the World Cup final and will face Olympic Champions, the Netherlands. Their match reports are below, for men's results click here >>

SEMI FINAL: Austrlia def USA in thrilling shoot-out

The Hockeyroos are through to Saturday's World Cup final after a thrilling semi-final with the USA finished with Australia taking victory, 3-1 in the shoot-out after a 2-2 draw. They will meet the hosts, the Netherlands, in the final after the Olympic champions beat the defending World Cup winners Argentina 4-0 in the second semi-final.

The result ensures that the Hockeyroos will leave The Hague with a medal and gives them the opportunity to add a third World Cup gold to those won in 1994 and 1998.

Goalkeeper Rachael Lynch was one of the Australian heroines with three saves in the shoot-out while Kellie White, Georgie Parker and Jodie Kenny kept their cool to convert their efforts.

Before the match, Western Australian Jayde Taylor was recognised for reaching 100 appearances for the Hockeyroos.

In a well contested opening half, White broke the deadlock two minutes before the half time break with a shot on the angle that took a deflection before finding its way to the back of the goal.

Kelsey Kolojejchick levelled for the USA 13 minutes into the second half as she rode a series of challenges before striking back for the 10th ranked team but tournament top scorer Anna Flanagan fired the Hockeyroos back in front five minutes later. It was Flanagan’s sixth penalty corner goal in the tournament.

With the contest entering its final stages and the Australian defence under growing pressure the USA snatched an equaliser with a shot from Kolojejchick that flew high off the body of Madonna Blyth beyond Lynch in goal. Australia immediately asked the umpire to review the decision but having lost their referral earlier in the game their appeals fell on deaf ears.

Afterwards, Hockeyroos Head Coach Adam Commens said, “I thought it was a typical semi-final. I think both teams came to play very hard and to play with a lot of energy, to try and win. I think in the first half we were a little disconnected but we still created a lot of opportunities. The second half…we started off quite well, we created a number of goal scoring opportunities.

“You wouldn’t expect a semi-final to be an easy match and it wasn’t, it was very close. I’m really proud the girls were able to get the result and to reach our goal of reaching the final. It’s been a long time since the Hockeyroos have been in a final of the World Cup or an Olympic Games. To do it now is off the back of some hard work over a number of years.”

When asked whether he feels the Hockeyroos belong back at the top of world hockey, Commens said, “I think we do. Whilst I have not been 100 per cent pleased with the way that we’ve played, and certainly wasn’t today, for us to not play at our best and to win matches and to reach a World Cup final says something about the ceiling we have.

“If your ceiling is here (up high) and you’re operating here (lower) but you still make the World Cup final, it shows the potential and capacity of this group is quite large. I think in the next two years you’ll start to see some pretty exciting matches from our group.”

Lynch was the busier of the goalkeepers early on in a first half that had only a handful of clear cut goal scoring opportunities. When it arrived, White’s goal was Australia’s first shot on target and came as the result of a quick breakaway by Emily Hurtz and Georgie Parker’s quickly taken free hit.

The second half burst into life with a string of early penalty corners. Jodie Kenny’s facemask thwarted the US on the first occasion and moments later Anna Flanagan was denied by American goalkeeper Jackie Kintzer at the other end. Rachael Lynch pulled off a good save from the USA’s second corner but the world number ten side was not to be denied and scored through Kelsey Kolojejchick who rode the tackles to equalise on 48 minutes.

Australia responded well to the set-back with Emily Hurtz forcing a penalty corner and the tournament’s top scorer Anna Flanagan kept her cool to fire the ball low into the bottom corner.

Under increasing American pressure as the match entered its final ten minutes, Lynch was forced to make save before Michelle Vittesse lashed a powerful shot just wide of the Victorian’s goal. There was a string in the tail, however. With just two minutes remaining Kolojejchick fired USA level at 2-2 to force the match to a shoot-out.

In the shoot-out, Lynch saved from Katie O’Donnell, Paige Selenski and Michelle Kasold with only Kolojejchick finding the target for USA. Hockeyroos captain Madonna Blyth’s effort was saved before White, Parker and Kenny all successfully held their nerve to put the Hockeryoos into Saturday’s final against either the Netherlands or Argentina.

Lynch spoke after the shoot-out, saying, “It’s just relief I suppose. There’s so much adrenalin in the one-on-ones. I’m just really happy the girls were so solid and just got the job done at the end so really rapped.

“I thought we were ok at 2-1 and were going to take the game out but these things happen. We practice these so much for this reason so we were really confident with the girls and that gives me so much confidence. I know I just have to save a couple and we’ll win. It went well today. [I’m] just so happy.”

The Hockeyroos will face the winner of the second semi-final, the Netherlands, in the final. The final takes place at 23:15 AEST on Saturday and will be shown live across Australia on ABC 2.

SEMI FINALS: Australia to play USA

As the runner-up in women’s Pool A, the Hockeyroos will face Pool B winners the USA. The Americans, who arrived in The Hague as the tournament’s third lowest ranked team (10th), topped Pool B ahead of defending world champions and Olympic silver medallists Argentina, who also qualified for the semi-finals, and European champions Germany, who finished fourth in the group. USA took four wins and a draw from their five matches, scoring 17 goals – the joint leading tally alongside the Netherlands.

The other women’s semi-final between the Netherlands and Argentina is a re-run of the 2012 Olympic final and the 2010 World Cup final. 

MATCH 5: Australia v New Zealand 0-0

The Hockeyroos gave themselves an excellent chance of reaching the semi-finals of the hockey World Cup for the first time since 2006 with a tight 0-0 draw against rivals New Zealand but will have to rely on the hosts, the Netherlands, to at least draw with Korea to be certain of progression to the final four.

The result, which came at the end of a tense trans-Tasman battle in humid conditions in The Hague, keeps the Australian women second in Pool A on ten points, three ahead of the third place Koreans.

Australia might have won the match but for a disallowed goal early in the second half, which was awarded at first but overturned on appeal to the video umpire by the Black Sticks. Emily Hurtz thought she had given her side the lead with a deft deflection over the goalkeeper in the 38th minute only for the goal to be ruled out after replays showed Anna Flanagan had not attempted to stop the ball after being awarded a free hit in the build-up.

After the match, Hockeyroos Head Coach Adam Commens said he was pleased with the result.

He said, “It was a really hard fought match as it always is against New Zealand. I thought that they were particularly good in the first half and we were not at our best. It was warm today and we had a really high intensity match against the Netherlands [on Saturday night] and a short turnaround for this match and I think that we struggled a little physically to reach the level that we had the other night.

“On top of that we had a number of players that were not 100% physically fit in terms of illness and injury, which inhibited us to play with the energy that we had shown before. I thought it was a really gritty performance; in the second half we created chances to win the match as New Zealand did in the first half. Ultimately, we’re pleased with the draw and we just have to wait to see what happens between Korea and the Netherlands.”

Before the match, Kate Jenner received acknowledgement of her 100th appearance for Australia.

She said, “It’s a big stage at the World Cup to play your 100th game. I would have been happier with the win but it’s always a tough game against New Zealand and we knew that they were going to bring it. We had to lift our game and hold them out in the end.”

The game began at pace with Australian goalkeeper Rachael Lynch forced into a good one-on-one save from Olivia Merry in the eighth minute, followed soon after by a New Zealand penalty corner that was well defended but in the awarding of it, the Hockeyroos lost their video referral.

The Hockeyroos’ first opportunity saw Kellie White’s tomahawk fly over the bar before, moments later, Australia’s first penalty corner move broke down. A second chance from a corner followed soon after but passed without a goal. New Zealand might have gone in to the break a goal up but for Krystal Forgesson’s shot at the near post going wide.

Hurtz’s disallowed goal was the closest the second half came to producing a winner with both defences coming out on top and neither goalkeeper particularly busy after the break.

When asked afterwards about his desire to go for the win, Commens added, “We were generating enough chances to get the win. I didn’t see any need for us to play any more attacking or really go for the jugular for the win.

“It does show that international matches are all difficult and we’ve seen that throughout this World Cup. It’s great that they are like that but anyone talking about easy matches…there just are no easy matches. We saw that in our first three matches and again today. It’s just really tight. I think women’s hockey’s in a good place and the level is just getting better from all the teams and there’s going to be some interesting times in the coming years.”

Ashleigh Nelson will have an x-ray after being hit in the toe early in the match.

Should the Netherlands either beat or draw with Korea, the Hockeyroos will progress to the semi-finals as Pool A runners up and will face the Pool B winners – most likely USA or Argentina but possibly China - on Thursday.

MATCH 4: Netherlands def Australia 2-0

The Hockeyroos will face trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand on Monday with their World Cup destiny still in their own hands after a pulsating match against the hosts, the Netherlands, ultimately ended in a narrow 2-0 defeat for the Australian women.

Kim Lammers’ near post deflection midway through the second half gave the Dutch the lead before Naomi Van As’s late strike made it 2-0.

It might have been a different outcome but for the heroics of home goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek, whose athleticism and reflexes thwarted Emily Hurtz, Jodie Kenny and Anna Flanagan as Australia came out of the traps quickly. The Hockeyroos’ energy and pressing attack had already caused the Olympic champions problems in the opening few minutes with Georgie Parker creating an early sight of goal before Emily Hurtz saw her deflection fly over the top.

In a pulsating encounter, the Hockeyroos were also made to work hard in defence with captain Madonna Blyth, Kenny and Kirstin Dwyer all making telling interceptions in the first period. At the other end, Kenny and Flanagan found the Dutch defence determined to prevent them from displaying their penalty corner prowess.

In the second half, Dutch set piece expect Maartje Paumen fired two corners wide of Ashlee Wells’ left post before teammate Kelly Jonker missed the target with a back post deflection. But with 57 minutes on the clock Lammers struck, finishing off a flowing counter attack after Australian Ashleigh Nelson had seen her tomahawk shot deflected wide. As the Hockeyroos pushed for a way back into the game they were grateful to Wells for a good double save. With five minutes remaining, however, the outcome was settled as Van As drove right inside the circle and fired home for 2-0.

Despite the defeat, the nature of the Australian performance pleased Head Coach Adam Commens, who said, “It was a fantastic match and a great advertisement for women’s hockey. Both teams played some really enterprising hockey. I thought, particularly in the second half, the Dutch team held the ball really well, moved it around the pitch nicely and they went with real power on the counter.

“I thought that in the first half our girls played a very spirited game. They worked hard, they were low in the contests and when they won the ball they moved it quite well and a lot cleaner than they had in the previous matches, so a great match for women’s hockey and a fantastic spectacle.

“In international hockey, and when you look at the great match we had last night between the Netherlands and Germany [men’s sides], you have to take your chances. Unfortunately, we didn’t take ours tonight and the Dutch were able to take theirs and they were very well taken at that, as well.”

Captain Madonna Blyth added, “It was most definitely our best game of the tournament so far and probably some of the best hockey we’ve played against the Dutch over the last couple of years. It was a pretty high paced match and we had to work pretty hard, and obviously when we’re trying to get a goal back it gets a bit scrappy at the end. I thought our girls did really well and if we play like that moving forward we should have some great results.”

The Hockeyroos can guarantee their place in next Thursday’s semi finals with victory over New Zealand on Monday (6:30pm AEST). Should they draw that match, they will require the Netherlands to either draw with or beat Korea, who sit two points behind them.

MATCH 3: Australia def Belgium 3-2

Two goals from Jodie Kenny, including one from the penalty spot, and an Anna Flanagan penalty corner flick ensured the Hockeyroos took a maximum three points with a 3-2 win over Belgium at the World Cup on Thursday.

But it was far from plain sailing for the Hockeyroos, who welcomed back captain Madonna Blyth from injury for her first game of the tournament.

Head Coach Adam Commens said afterwards that he believed missed chances early in the game had contributed to a tight contest later on.

He said, “We began the game very well. First 15, 20 minutes we had a lot of opportunities and I think in that moment you need to take them and score two or three goals and the match is put to bed. We were unable to do that, which is a little frustrating as a coach.

“After that I thought Belgium played very well. It’s a team that we knew is a little tricky. They’ve got some good players through the midfield that can handle the ball under pressure and I thought they did that. On the flip side I thought our ball handling was as bad as I’ve seen it in a number of years and we weren’t good in the second half. We will need to be much better than that against the Netherlands.”

Twice the Hockeyroos took the lead only to see the 12th ranked Red Panthers claw their way back into contention with goals from Stephanie De Groof and Jill Boon. Flanagan’s flick midway through the first half had given the Australian women a deserved lead but Belgium were worthy of De Groof’s swept equaliser on the stroke of half time after responding well to going behind.

Kenny unleashed a powerful low penalty corner flick three minutes after the restart to put the Hockeyroos back in front but Boon’s swivel shot in space four minutes later levelled things at 2-2.

Kenny’s winner, from the spot 16 minutes from time, came following a bout of sustained pressure that saw the Hockeyroos earn five consecutive penalty corners. The 26 year old Queenslander’s effort from the fifth set piece struck Belgian scorer De Groof on the goal line and she stepped up to slot the resulting penalty stroke narrowly underneath the outstretched foot of ‘keeper Aisling D’Hooghe.

In the final stages Belgium came close to snatching a late equaliser on several occasions but the Hockeyroos held out for three points, earning them a maximum haul of nine points from a possible nine so far.

Captain Madonna Blyth, who belatedly began her third World Cup campaign after a calf injury ruled her out of the opening two rounds, said, “It’s felt like a long time sitting on the bench watching but really happy to get out there today. It was a tough match and I feel like my leg’s pulled up fine so [I’m] looking forward to having a bit more of an impact in the next games.”

Speaking about the match, she said, “I think they’re [Belgium] a good team. They’re probably on the rise and you’ll probably see their ranking drop in the next few years so they’re a tough match. We knew they would be but I thought we could have put the game away a little bit earlier and it wouldn’t have been such a scrap in the last ten, 15 minutes.”

The Hockeyroos now look forward to a showdown with hosts and Olympic champions the Netherlands in a packed Kyocera Stadium at 19:45 local time on Saturday night (03:45 AEST Sunday morning).

MATCH 2: Australia def Japan 3-2

The Hockeyroos secured maximum points from their second match at the Hockey World Cup in The Hague as they came from behind to beat Japan 3-2.

Despite needing to rally, National Coach Adam Commens declared it a “satisfying” and “really solid” performance for the team still without injured skipper Madonna Blyth.

The Hockeyroos fell behind against the run of play to a breakaway goal from Yuri Nagai midway through the first period before 2012 World Young Player of the Year, Anna Flanagan, pulled them back into contention with a low penalty corner goal on the stroke of half time.

Emily Smith’s diving diversion of Jane Claxton’s cross put the Aussie women ahead shortly after half time. And, as on Saturday against Korea, a successful video referral won the Hockeyroos a penalty corner, which Flanagan dispatched high into the top corner for 3-1.

However, Australia’s opponents found a way back into the match with just over ten minutes remaining. From a penalty corner, a goal-bound shot was illegally blocked on the line and Shiho Sakai stepped up to slot the ball home into the bottom corner for 3-2.

Despite a late barrage of penalty corners the Hockeyroos couldn’t extend their advantage but good pressure high up the field kept the Japanese at bay until the final hooter. The match marked a 150th appearance for Australia for Ashleigh Nelson and a 50th outing in the green and gold for Kirstin Dwyer.

National Coach Adam Commens said afterwards, “I think it was a satisfying performance from us to go one nil down and then to come back and persevere with the game plan that we had. We were executing it well and creating a lot of chances. Statistically, you can see that we created a lot of goal scoring opportunities and we didn’t concede many.

“We did well and we were unlucky probably not to get a fourth [goal] so I was really pleased with the way that we stuck to our game plan. We got in a position to win the match. It’s a little disappointing that they were able to score to make it 3-2 – it causes a bit of stress for the coach – but ultimately I thought it was a really solid performance and one that was an improvement on the first match.”

Answering questions on the fitness of captain Madonna Blyth, Commens added, “She has a calf injury to her lower leg, it’s a small strain. She will run today and do some training in the coming days and hopefully be ready for the match against Belgium in three days’ time. We envisage that she will be alright.

“I’ll repeat what I said the other day. Missing a player of that standard leaves a big hole in our team. We are very satisfied with the other players in our midfield but we normally play with five midfielders and we’re playing with only four at the moment. We want to keep the structure of our team the same around the group, rather than shuffling and playing less defenders or less forwards. And I think we’ve done a great job to get the points missing a player of the ability of Madonna. It will be great to have her back.”

The Hockeyroos have two days’ break before their third pool fixture, against Belgium, on Thursday. That match gets underway at 10:30am local time (6:30pm AEST / 4:30pm AWST).

MATCH 1: Australia def Korea 3-2

The Hockeyroos got their World Cup campaign off to the best possible start in testing circumstances as they came from behind to beat Korea 3-2 in The Hague on Saturday.

Missing captain Madonna Blyth to a calf strain sustained in training on Friday, they found themselves behind to a seventh minute goal but rebounded to score three times before holding out for a nervy final five minutes after a late Korean strike.

Emily Hurtz’s neat finish at the back post from Georgie Parker’s threaded pass levelled things in the 12th minute after Eunbl Cheon’s opener and the Hockeyroos made their set pieces count to devastating effect in the second half. Anna Flanagan fired high into the goal from a penalty corner earned on video referral before Casey Eastham won a penalty stroke from a corner, which Flanagan converted low into the bottom of the goal.

Just as things might have looked more comfortable for the girls in gold, Korea pulled one back with just over five minutes remaining, setting up a nervy final period. With the ball breaking loose in the centre of the circle, Seul Ki Cheon fired into the top corner, lifting the ball over the diving glove of goalkeeper Rachael Lynch.

Despite the setback the Hockeyroos regrouped, defending resolutely and maintaining possession to thwart the late Korean push for an equaliser.

National coach Adam Commens said afterwards, “We knew before we started the game and the tournament that the match against Korea would be a very difficult one. They’re a team that normally begins tournaments well and we thought it would be tricky. We saw that in the first half; they began strong. I thought that we built into the game and throughout the second half we played some good hockey. During that period we controlled the match well and I was pleased with the efforts of our players to take their opportunities well. The last five or six minutes were a little disappointing, to let them back into the game, but ultimately we got the three points and that’s what we were after.”

The Hockeyroos, led by Casey Eastham, played with 17 players as Blyth supported her teammates from the dugout.

Speaking about double Olympian and World Cup silver medallist Blyth, Commens said, “It happened yesterday at training – [in] our last training session. She felt it and as we know with those types of injuries you don’t feel them coming on, it’s just slightly sore. We made the decision to rest her. Our focus is the end of the tournament. I think it says something about our team and the confidence we have in it that we can play against a quality nation like Korea and take the option to rest our captain. She could have played but we didn’t want the injury to worsen for later in the tournament.

“We’d like her to play [against Japan on Monday]. Obviously it’s not ideal to have her sitting off for too long but as you know with these type of injuries it’s five to seven days normally. Belgium is in five days but we’ll monitor each day, do a small fitness test but right now she’s resting; she didn’t warm up or do anything.”

The Hockeyroos face Japan in their second match of the tournament at 18:30 AEST on Monday.

Hockey Australia

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