Australian women, Dutch men claim World Champion titles at memorable World Cup

The Australian women showed the world - yet again - that they are the undeniable and unbeatable best, while the Dutch men satisfied a home crowd hungry for a title with a thrilling extra-time win in the men's final. Australia defeated the Netherlands 3-2 to become Women's World Champions and the Netherlands downed Spain by the same score to become Men's World Champions.

If you had just a short space in which to summarise the 9th Men's and Women's World Cup held in May in Utrecht, Netherlands, you could get by with the few lines above. But to do justice to the truly exceptional and memorable event that was the first-ever dual hockey world championships, you would have to write volumes.

Two tournaments, 84 hockey matches, 384 athletes and 61 officials, a massive organisation, fantastic crowds, meetings, the media and the media coverage, food and fun, fundraising for Pakistan, sponsors and suppliers, ball boys and girls, four Frockeys (the tournament mascot) dancing and falling around the pitch, two World Champion teams and 22 others - all this and more combined over 13 days to produce an unforgettable experience and - few would question - the best international hockey event ever.

On the pitch, the Australian women lived up to everyone's expectations by defeating all their opponents to become world champions for the third consecutive time. The Australians finished first in Pool A and then in the semi-final, won 4-2 over Argentina - who had finished second in Pool B - to book their place in the finals. The Dutch women conceded just one point in pool play to finish first in Pool B, and then went on to soundly defeat Germany, 6-1, in the other semi and set up the final confrontation against Australia.

The Dutch ladies scored first and fast in the final, which was played on the penultimate day in front of a partisan crowd of roughly 15,000 spectators. But the strength of the Australians never seemed in doubt. They equalised in the 22nd minute, went ahead in the 24th and scored for a third time in the 56th minute. The Netherlands added another goal in the 62nd minute, but that would be all. The final score: 3-2 to the Australians in what was a skillful and beautifully played match.

In the women's 3rd - 4th playoff, Germany downed Argentina 3-2 to take the last medal spot. Again, it was the losing team that struck first with a goal in the 34th minute. But Germany - playing without the services of Britta Becker who was earlier knocked out of the tournament with an injury - responded with three second-half goals, while Argentina could manage only one more.

In the men's tournament, both the Netherlands and Spain finished second in their pools, but went on to defeat the first place pool finishers to secure their spots in the final. In one semi-final, the Dutch downed Australia with a convincing 6-2 victory, while in the other semi, the men from Spain blanked Germany, 3-0.

The men's final, a tense and exciting affair, was also played in front of a sell-out crowd. Spain cracked the Netherlands' defense with a goal in the 18th minute, and despite numerous chances from penalty corners in the following 35 minutes, the Dutch were unable to answer. With a second goal by Spain in the 55th minute, it appeared that the game was out of reach for Holland.

But looks were deceiving. With just more than 10 minutes left to play, Dutch captain Stephan Veen took matters into his own hands, scoring a field goal to bring the hosts to within one. Then one minute later, penalty corner specialist, Bram Lomans, finally found the mark and evened the match.

With only two minutes left before the final would be decided on penalty strokes, Holland was awarded a penalty corner. Spain's Ramon Jufresa, who would be voted by the media as the tournament's best goal keeper, ably saved the first shot on goal, but Teun de Nooijer secured the rebounded ball and knocked it into the goal to finish the match and claim the title of World Champions for the Dutch.

The playoff for third and fourth place saw Germany claim a second medal with a 1-0 victory over Australia.