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Day 5 - Australia to Play China for Gold
06 Dec 2003 07:38
 

AUS and KOR do battle on and off their feet.
© FIH

It is not often, if at all, that Australian hockey will pass a vote of thanks to The Netherlands. And Dutch coach Marc Lammers was not expecting Hockeyroos coach David Bell to buy him a Heineken tonight after The Netherlands opened the door for Australia to play China in tomorrow’s BDO Champions Trophy final at Sydney Olympic Park.

But by a twist of results, which maintained the cut-throat drama that is the backdrop of this 11th BDO Champions Trophy, the Hockeyroos yesterday were treated to the Dutch leaving the door to tomorrow’s final ajar by holding Argentina to a 3-3 draw.

The equation was simple. If Australia won, the Hockeyroos would play in the final against trophy holder China, which preserved its unbeaten record here with a 2-2 draw against a rejuvenated England. A draw would not be enough. Defeat would set up a rematch of last year’s final with Argentina seeking revenge against China.

Win Australia did … big time. The 5-0 blitz – with five different goalscorers – matched Australia’s five-goal start against England and left the Hockeyroos as the tournament’s highest scorer (13 goals) and most miserly in defence (just three goals) where Australia is starkly better than in Perth at the World Cup last year by the return of Sydney Olympian Kate Allen at full back and the release of Angie Skirving to play as a “libero” defender.

And that combination of high-octane scoring and giving away little at the back is enough to have Lammers install Australia as favourite to win the Champions Trophy for the first time since 1999 by reversing the 1-0 loss to China last Tuesday.

“It will be a close game, but Australia is better at the corners and that will make the difference,” said Lammers. “They defend corners better, they play corners better.”

Lammers was speaking before Australia converted two of six penalty corners and blocked all of Korea’s five to advance to a final that will draw many Sydneysiders to Homebush Bay to rekindle the memories of the 2000 Olympics when the Hockeyroos defended Olympic gold.

It is a new team, seeking new honours that will represent Australia tomorrow, but even the new Hockeyroos who were not part of Sydney 2000 – such as forward Peta Gallagher, who celebrated her 26th birthday and 50th international today – want to draw on the experience of the Olympic dream fulfilled three years ago.

“It’s excellent to follow on with another chapter (after Sydney 2000),” said Gallagher. “But the job is not done yet. We have to make sure we keep playing well and, hopefully, go away with the gold medal. To follow up the Olympics with the Champions Trophy in Sydney would be nice.”

Bell left Sydney Olympic Park more than confident of his team’s ability to win its first A-class title since the 2000 Games.

“Our knowledge on China since Tuesday has improved – and that match is now very beneficial to us,” said Bell, emphasising the Hockeyroos have more to gain than China in reflecting on the 1-0 result midweek. “We have a lot of footage (of China) to look at now and our analysis by the coaches tonight will be over-heating.”

The mood of China’s Korean-born coach Kim Changback was overheating as the Chinese where forced, for the first time in this tournament, to fightback after falling a goal down to Anna Bennett’s field goal after eight minutes. Two goals in four minutes, the 23rd and 27th, gave China the lead which was lost in the 45th when Bennett completed her brace of field goals. Changback’s frustration on the bench prompted an official warning for “repeatedly disputing umpiring decisions”. And the dressing down he gave to his players in the dug-out after the match revealed his displeasure with China’s form.

The tension between the Argentine and Dutch players tainted their 3-3 draw which has a sequel tomorrow in the bronze medal play-off.

Argentina thrust one foot in the final after eight minutes when Agustina Garcia took advantage of a huge gap in the Dutch defence and a pinpoint pass from captain Magdalena Aicega. The Netherlands dragged that foot back with Ageeth Boomgaardt’s penalty corner three minutes later to re-establish the draw the Australians wanted.

Marina DiGiacomo put Argentina back in contention for the Champions Trophy with her spectacular backstick goal in the 55th, an advantage which was eroded by Dutch captain Mijnjte Donners’ penalty corner in the 64th and Eefke Mulder’s field goal with less than two minutes to play. The Australians were again playing for the final.

Not even Mercedes Margalot’s penalty stroke with 1:14 to play changed that.

Argentina coach Gabriel Minadeo was surprised his players wasted so much energy in the first half with their nervous approach.

“At half-time I told the players to forget their nerves and to start playing. We gave 35 minutes to the other team,” said Minadeo. “It was a very special match. The difference was The Netherlands scored with their short corners.”

England’s 2-2 draw with China reflected the new spirit in the English since their win against European rival, The Netherlands. Again, England coach Trish Heberle revealed her standards for her team are high.

“People are patting us on the back as if we should be satisfied with a draw,” she said. “We can’t be satisfied when we created enough opportunities to win. We had a chance to play for bronze and put pressure on other teams to make the final. I make no apology for setting high standards and saying we are not happy with a draw against China when we played well enough to win.”

QUOTES


It would have been most deflating had we played that well and still not made the final. Australia coach David Bell after the 5-0 win against Korea.

I could not have asked for more. Last year we were playing Argentina in a World Cup semi-final and lost. Hockeyroo Peta Gallagher, who celebrated her 26th birthday with a 5-0 win against Korea, on the difference a year makes.

People are patting us on the back as if we should be satisfied with a draw; we can’t be satisfied when we created enough opportunities to win. England coach Trish Heberle after the 2-2 draw with China.

It happens all the time. Argentina coach Gabriel Minadeo on the argy bargy between the Dutch and Argentine players as they left the field after the 3-3 draw.


 
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