The Riverbank Arena belonged to the Dutch tonight as a sea of orange, a deafening crowd and a superb band roared their team on, witnessing a wonderful performance from their team.
The occasion was set, as the world’s greatest player, seven-time FIH Player of the Year, Luciana Aymar hoped to capture the one medal missing from her glittering collection, on the occasion of her 35th birthday. It was not to be, as the Oranje, spurred on by an excellent performance from Naomi Van As and the set piece threat of Maartje Paumen were simply too good for Las Leonas.
The Dutch settled the quicker of the two sides. Paumen’s cross was cleared by goalkeeper Florencia Mutio and Naomi Van As did well to break along the baseline, but her cross couldn’t find Kelly Jonker.
Argentina forced the first penalty corner of the match, but Noel Barrionuevo flicked wide of the post. The best chance of the game so far fell to Aymar as she robbed Eva De Goede and burst into the D. With the angle narrowing all the time her reverse stick shot was comfortably dealt with by Joyce Sombroek.
The game had not really caught fire. Argentina were sitting relatively deep and the Dutch were making most of the attacking moves, without really having the chances to show for it.
Another wonderful run from Naomi Van As forced the first of two penalty corners for the Netherlands, Paumen’s first flick was charged down by Rocio Sanchez Moccia, whilst the second was saved brilliantly to the goalkeeper’s right, with Van As’ follow up being saved also.
As they had done four years ago in Beijing, the Oranje went in at the break level.
The familiar pattern continued after the break. Kelly Jonker did well to win a penalty corner. Argentina were protesting for a foot in the build up, but were unable to refer due to the alleged infringement taking place outside the 25. Paumen’s flick was well saved, but Dirkse van der Heuvel smashed the rebound into the net to break the deadlock.
Paumen went close with another penalty corner, reprising the one-two with Eva De Goede which served her so well against New Zealand, although this time it was saved by Mutio.
In the 54th minute, Paumen got her goal. Another penalty corner, this time flicked brilliantly into the roof of the net, making the score 2-0 and the Dutch captain the all-time leading scorer in the Women’s Olympic Hockey with 13 goals.
Argentina simply couldn’t get into the game. With Van As running things in midfield, and the Dutch keeping Aymar quiet it simply was not to be for Las Leonas. The Dutch ran the clock down in relative comfort and retained the title they won four years ago.
The Netherlands had been the best team in the competition. Undefeated, and really turning on the style when it mattered most. For Argentina, the Olympic gold still eludes them. Luciana Aymar was not to have the fairytale ending she dreamed of. Even the most romantic of hockey fans, could not deny the Dutch fully deserved their gold.