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Dutch girls win Olympic hockey gold for second time

India TV News Desk 11 Aug 2012, 18:25:56 IST
India TV News Desk
London, Aug 11: The Netherlands was winning matches, but only just, in the defense of its women's Olympic field hockey crown. So coach Max Caldas warned some of his best players before the final on Friday to raise their game.

They did and the result was a convincing 2-0 win over world champion Argentina, which had beaten the Dutch in two major finals in the last two years.

"We saved our best for last," Caldas said. "We erased them from the field today."

At the final whistle, the Dutch celebrated with a mass hug in their circle as thousands of orange-clad fans roared at the Riverbank Arena. Eight of the Dutch players earned their second straight gold medal.

"I can hardly believe it," one of the eight, midfielder Eva de Goede said. "I had a good feeling from the beginning and we played such a good first half, and the second half they (Argentina) were absolutely nowhere."

Winners of all seven of their games, the Dutch women gave their men's team extra incentive to record the first-ever Olympic double when it plays Germany in that final on Saturday.

One of the players Caldas targeted for an improved effort was his captain, Maartje Paumen. She scored a record 11 goals in Beijing but none until the semifinals, when she smacked in two penalty corners, her specialty. Paumen's first two chances in the final were saved, but she smashed in her third to lift her Olympic tally to a record 14.

"When the pressure's on, she steps up," Caldas said. "She's all class."

Paumen's was the second goal with 16 minutes to go, after which Argentina coach Carlos Retegui admitted his side broke down and never recovered.

The final between the world's two best teams was tight without being riveting until Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel scored from a rebound off de Goede's corner in the 40th minute.

"That goal just had to be scored," Dirkse van den Heuvel said after her first Olympic final. "We had been better than (Argentina) for the entire game and if you take too long scoring, it only gets more and more difficult, so it just had to happen."

Argentina pressed for the equalizer but the Netherlands pushed back and Paumen settled the contest in front of the orange-tinted crowd that made the team, she said, "feel like we were playing in Holland."

While the Netherlands was the only team to win all of its games, Paumen's penalty corner stutters were obvious, but she never got down on herself she said.

"I have a lot of confidence, and I know the team and staff have confidence in me," she said. "The record is nice but no more than that. I'm more happy with two gold medals."

Her Argentina counterpart, the storied Luciana Aymar, lived up to her reputation as the best player in the game, but couldn't celebrate her 35th birthday by leading her team to victory in her last match before retirement.

The Dutch have been the bane of Aymar and Argentina at the Olympics. Las Leonas, the Lionesses, lost to the Netherlands in the 2004 and 2008 semifinals and finished with bronze medals, to go with their silver in 2000. That left Aymar as the first woman to win four Olympic hockey medals, and the first Argentine woman to medal in four straight Olympics -- and a giant void to fill when she leaves and starts the family she craves.

"She's a great human being more than a great player," said teammate Macarena Rodriguez Perez. "Argentina is going to have to find more than one player to replace her."

Earlier, host Britain won the bronze by beating New Zealand 3-1.