Floortje Engels was the hero for her side, saving a penalty in the shoot out to secure a place in Sunday’s final for the Netherlands in a close-fought battle with South Africa.
The Dutch controlled the first half and raced into a two goal lead with goals from Kelly Jonker in the third minute, after she was allowed time and space to pick her spot in the South African D, and a blistering penalty corner from Martje Paumen in the tenth minute.
As in previous games, Paumen and Naomi Van As were beginning to pull the strings as they went in search of a third to kill the game off. South Africa looked punch drunk and had yet to really come out of the blocks.
South Africa enjoyed their best spell of pressure with the half drawing to a close. Sulette Damons went close, drawing a good save out of Engels, whilst Sophie Polkamp really came to the fore, holding things together at the back for the Oranje. With 3 minutes to go to the break, South Africa gave themselves a lifeline. Some outstanding individual skills from FIH All Star Pietie Coetzee paid off as she slalomed her way through the defence and hit a reverse-stick shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
South Africa came out for the second half with a real renewed purpose. They had already penned their opponents in their half and gone close on a number of occasions when they managed to draw level. It was Coetzee again, this time firing a penalty corner into the roof of the net past a diving Engels to tie it up at 2-2.
The Netherlands stepped up a gear once again and but for some excellent defensive work, in particular from Nicolene Terblanche, kept them out as the crowd steeled themselves for a penalty shootout. There was still time for Jonker to have a shot well saved and cleared by Rix, and that was the end. With no extra time in the match it was straight to a penalty shootout. Rather than a traditional penalty stroke shootout, it was instead to be the 1-1 from the 25.
Naomi Van As, and Martje Paumen scored the first two for the Netherlands, whilst Dirkie Chamberlain and captain Marsha Marescia scored theirs to make it 2-2. Marescia showed terrifc composure, having missed her initial attempt she collected the rebound and beat Engels in the nick of time. Willemijn Bos converted for 3-2, before Lesle-Ann George was then fouled by Engels, meaning a re-take, which she sent wide. Eva De Goede hit a splendid strike from the top of the D to beat Rix for 4-2, meaning Tarryn Bright had to score. Engels did superbly to shadow her and blocked with her stick to give the Dutch the win.
Max Caldas was his usual honest self in the press conference: “We started really well and got a 2-0 lead, but we didn’t kill the game off and got complacent, which cost us. Overall though, I’m happy to win a shootout in tournament conditions, it will do us good.”
Fabian Gregory was asked if he felt his team had overperformed in this competition, his answer was honest and to the point: “We have a lot of experienced players with a lot of caps. We have just moved from a training phase to a performance phase and it is starting to show. If people think we are there to make up the numbers this summer, they are in for a rude awakening.”
South Africa will now face Germany in the 3/4th place playoff whilst the Netherlands will take on Australia.