After yesterday's rest day, it was the two teams at the bottom of the table who opened the next round of matches: Germany and Korea. Pulling away early to a three goal lead, Germany won the game largely on their first half effort, as Korea's endeavours later in the match were not enough to overcome the established disadvantage. Up next, Australia and Spain split points in a one-all draw, and Argentina finally concluded the day with a dramatic 1-0 last-minute-goal win over tournament favorites Holland.
Germany defeat Korea 4:3 (4:1)
Germany started exactly like yesterday, with Florian Keller scoring a goal in the opening minutes to get on the scoreboard before the match gets really going. Keller received the ball off a good pass from Matthias Witthaus, and brought Korean goalkeeper Dong Sik Ko down with a well executed deception to push the ball into an open goal.
Germany dominated this initial phase of the encounter, and it wasn't long until Oli Korn added their second goal off a Matthias Witthaus shot that hit the post, and Sebastian Draguhn piled on another one with a dragflick penalty corner goal, all still in the first 15 minutes of the match.
Korea started to get their feet on the ground, and sunk their first less than three minutes later as Byung Hoon Kim equally made good use of a penalty corner. Germany quickly restored their three goal lead when Florian Keller converted a penalty stroke, and continued to dominate the proceedings. They were unable to score again however and the two teams thus went into the break with Germany 4-1 in the lead.
In the second half, Korea finally began to show a game resembling what would be expected of them, adjusting their tactics after having conceded as many goals in 2,5 matches as they did in 8 matches in last December's edition of the Champions Trophy. The Asians started being able to create some pressure without completely exposing their goal, and were rewarded with a Nam Yong Lee conversion of a great Seong Jung Kang run.
Korea kept the pressure up and climbed another step closer with a skillful Jong Ho Seo goal in the 64th minute but it was too late to fully turn around the match. Germany did a good job holding on to their lead in the dying minutes to leave Korea still without points after the third round of matches.
Australia draw Spain 1:1 (0:0)
In a marked change from the previous matches that were for the bigger part wide open and ended up with scores of goals, Australia and Spain took to the field today with an increased defensive posture and mnaged no more than one goal each for a 1-1 draw.
From the start, play went back and forth frequently and fast, and both teams had a number of chances with Quico Cortes and Stephen Lambert at either end of the field having to pull a few spectacular saves to keep the scoreline where it was.
The second half continued in much the same vein, until the Kookaburras were able to break the deadlock 15 minutes before the end of the match. Jamie Dwyer made a great run into the circle, and taking advantage of a Quico Cortes slip-up, Grant Schubert slapped the ball over the line for the lead.
Spain subsequently opened up, pushing forward with more determination, and they were rewarded six minutes from the end with the equalizer at the hands of David Alegre, a cheap goal from a narrow angle conceded too easily by Stephen Lambert after a stellar performance in the biggest part of the match.
In the final minutes of the match, both teams tried for the elusive winning goal but to no avail. The scoreline stayed at 1-1 to firnly lodge both teams in the middle of the table with a win, a draw and a loss from three matches and thus four points each.
Argentina defeat Netherlands 1:0 (0:0)
Up against the host team that boosted two wins in two games, Argentina once more put forward a world class performance, the kind of performance that makes one feel sad for them not being part of the Olympic hockey tournament in six weeks.
The South Americans played offensively from the start, fervently attacking while their Dutch opponents looked dangerous mostly on quick breaks, but Argentina more than held their ground against the formidable Dutch squad. The white-and-blue generated more quality chances and held the Netherlands to only a few opportunities.
Both halves provided great entertainment for the once again well-sized crowd, as the ball moved up and down the field fast and there were many great moves on both sides. Both teams had opportunities, but kept ending up denied by the other side. But just as it looked like it was going to be the first goalless draw in a Champions Trophy in 13 years, Argentina won a last penalty corner with a minute on the clock.
Juan Gilardi stepped up to coolly dragflick to the bottom left corner, out of reach for Jaap Stockmann who was in goal for the Netherlands today. An incredible finish for Argentina who were under much pressure late in the game. The Netherlands were resting Guus Vogels and Jeroen Delmee today, but were clearly playing to win and stood with their heads hanging as the final whistle sounded seconds after the goal.
The win takes Argentina to the top of the standings, putting them in a very good position to reach Sunday's final, and also marks the team's first defeat of the Oranje squad in a major competition in 12 encounters. Holland are in second position in the table, a point behind Argentina on six, followed by Spain, Australia and Germany all on four. With five teams that close together, the remaining two rounds of pool play guarantee some great action. Korea trails behind, still without points.
Tomorrow Wednesday, 25 June 2008, there is one match, the encounter between Argentina and Spain.
For more information on the tournament, including action photos, live commentary from ongoing matches and previews for upcoming matches, please visit the dedicated tournament site.