LONDON (AFP) –
The Netherlands crushed Great Britain 9-2 on Thursday to reach the men’s hockey final where they will tackle defending champions Germany for the gold medal.
The Dutch, who last took the title in 2000, overwhelmed Britain who struggled to contain the pace and unpredictable movement of Rogier Hofman, Billy Bakker and Valentin Verga.
By half-time the Dutch already had a firm grip with a 4-1 lead.
Two Roderick Weusthof goals put them two up inside a quarter of an hour, the second of them after fans had cheered a Dutch failure to score from a penalty corner, only for the ball to be played straight back into the danger zone.
Although the prolific Ashley Jackson pulled one back, the home crowd were soon quietened by goals from Mink van der Weerden and by Bakker.
Bakker scored twice more after half-time, and both Floris Evers and the 36-year-old Teun de Nooijers, who was a member of both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic gold medal winning squads, got on the scoresheet before Weusthof too completed his hat-trick.
By now the chants of Rule Britannia had begun to sound a little hollow, but there was some slight consolation for the home nation with a late goal by Rob Moore.
“It is difficult for me because my head is somewhere else now, and I am very happy and proud. We promised to come and play our game, which is to attack, and we did,” said Evers.
“We knew the first 10 minutes of the second half would be important, and when they didn’t score then, we knew it was going to be our day.”
England coach Jason Lee said he was embarrassed by the loss.
“At 4-1 at half time it was our intention to try to get back in it, and that’s what opened it up for them. We got a bit reckless too early and lost the basics and couldn’t get them back,” he said.
Earlier Germany had shown their mettle by making a great late comeback to overcome the top-seeded world champions Australia by 4-2.
It happened after Germany were denied an apparently brilliant equaliser, for dangerous play.
Oliver Korn’s perceptive lofted pass was deftly controlled mid-air by Oskar Deecke and with a little aerial juggling, he nudged over the goalkeeper.
But it was disallowed, even though four Germans implored the referee to change his mind.
“The rules are changing all the time. Soon enough that will be a goal,” said Australian coach Ric Charlesworth.
“It was very clever and a good move, but maybe the right decision. Unfortunately they don’t know what to do with the overhead.”
It seemed to give the Germans an adrenaline surge and very soon Tobias Hauke split the Australian defence with a diagonal ball from the left, putting in Matthias Witthaus to equalise, and quite quickly the Germans had a two-goal lead.
First they stopped play to ask for a video review which showed an Australian foot touching the ball inside the penalty area. The resulting penalty corner brought a goal from Timo Wess.
Then, with the Australians pressing hard to save the match, Florian Fuchs broke away to make a place in the final safe with a fourth goal.
“It was the kind of passionate game you need in a semi-final. It was a great match,” said German coach Markus Weise.
Kieran Govers had put Australia 1-0 up but within three minutes Witthaus won a penalty corner from which Moritz Furste equalised.
Ten minutes into the second half, Australia had the lead again when the Germans got into a defensive muddle, and Glenn Turner thwacked the ball in from only a few feet.
The world champions seemed to be heading for triumph at that stage, until the match turned dramatically on its head.