In the grand final of the 2008 women's Olympic hockey tournament, the Dutch women, the outstanding team in this competition, laid down another formidable performance, claiming clear victory over China for the Gold medal.
In the match for third place, the Leonas defeated the Olympic Champions of 2004 to take Bronze in what will in all likelihood have been the last Olympic Games for a number of their great players such as Magdalena Aicega, Alejandra Gulla, Mechi Margalot and quite possibly also La Maga - Luciana Aymar.
Earlier in the day, South Africa had handed down the wooden spoon to New Zealand with a convincing 4-1 win while Australia defeated Great Britain in a tight match for 5th place.
Gold Medal Match
Netherlands defeat China 2:0 (0:0)
The Netherlands, the favourites in this encounter despite good performances of the hosts in this event, took firm charge of the proceedings from the very start, pushing forward aggressively and creating scores of chances in a cracking contest.
They were unable to score in the first half though, which was both a surrpise and a frustrating experience for them - and to no player more so than Maartje Paumen, penalty corner superstar, who was denied on three occasions. China had to thank goalkeeper Zhang Yimeng to thank, who pulled a number of top class saves to maintain a half time shutout.
With the Netherlands having been the dominating force through much of the first half, things had changed markedly when the teams came back after the break - the two teams were now even, and China had a few opportunities of their own.
China did a fantastic job at blocking the Dutch efforts, counter-attacking at great pace, but halfway through the second half, Naomi van As finally scored for the Netherlands, to the great relief of her team mates. On a penalty corner, there seemed to be confusion at the top of the circle, but the ball was eventually pushed to the left for van As to slap across the line.
Now one goal behind, the home team threw everything they had forward, chasing the elusive equalizer, but to no avail: the Dutch were firmly in control, denying their opponents once and again before even raising the bar with a Maartje Goderie goal that practically took them to the finishing line.
The remaining minutes went by with China giving their all but the Dutch were quite simply a league of their own, as they have been throughout this tournament.
The Dutch women are thus now World and Olympic Champions, while China have won their first ever Olympic hockey medal. Having won seven of their seven matches in Beijing with a goal difference of 21:5, the title is undoubtedly deserved - Holland have been the best women's team in Beijing.
Bronze Medal Match
Argentina defeat Germany 3:1 (2:0)
Argentina had plenty to celebrate today, taking Olympic bronze in Luciana Aymar's 250th cap and Magdalena Aicega's 300th.
The Leonas came out blazing against a German team clearly still exhausted from their semi-final with China two days ago that forced them to go all out and beyond. They had an early string of chances including a handful of penalty corners, one of which yielded an early lead when Rosario Luchetti deflected a penalty corner rebound shot past German goalkeeper Kristina Reynolds.
The Germans were still taking their time getting their feet on the ground, and fell further behind when Carla Rebecchi extended the lead with a smart goal as an Alejandra Gulla shot was warded off to see the ball head for the out, but Rebecchi intervening to navigate it across the line and into the goal.
After the break, the Germans woke up and put steady pressure on the Argentinean defense to level the game. Twelve minutes into the half, they were rewarded with their first goal when Anke Kuehn volleyed a pass from Julia Müller into the goal from the edge of the circle.
The momentum was shifting, with the Germans taking charge of the game, but they were struggling to create scoring opportunities and paid the price for their lacking finishing touch when Noel Barrionuevo converted a penalty corner with a hard flick with a little more than 5 minutes on the clock, for all practical purposes taking her team out of reach.
The Argentine women celebrated their bronze medal with genuine elation, despite quite possibly having come to Beijing with higher aspirations, and they were congratulated by Diego Maradona on their effort, while the German girls were lying on the field exhausted and crying tears of disbelief and despair.
South Australia defeat Great Britain 2:0 (1:0)
In the blazing hot sun of Beijing this morning, Australia and Great Britain took to the field to play for fifth place. The match took time to kick into gear, with the teams trying to not give away too much too early and keen not too push the pace too soon in the soaring temperatures.
While the game struggled to gain any rhythm throughout the first half, Australia were able to take the lead late in the period during one of their rare spells of acceleration and seemed content to keep Great Britain under control the rest of the time.
The second half carried on in much the same vein, with both teams suffering from the heat and a lack of motivation after a long and exhausting tournament.
After the break, Great Britain seemed on the way up but struggled to create danger. When Sarah Thomas finally got the ball into the net, the Brits' celebrations were cut short by the video umpire disallowing the goal - a fate that was shared by the Hockeyroos who had a goal from Hope Munro called back in a similar fashion late in the game.
With little more than three minutes on the clock and still one goal down, the British took goalkeeper Beth Storry off the field with Crista Cullen playign kicking back in a last ditch effort to level the scores and force the game into extra time.
The plan backfired however, as it saw Australia score to plow on out of reach with their second goal, put away by Hope Munro. GB brought Beth Storry back and the last few seconds ticked down for Australia to take fifth place and confine Britain to sixth.
South Africa defeat New Zealand 4:1 (2:1)
South Africa deservingly won the classification game for 11th-12th place with a convincing 4-1 win over New Zealand. They started the match with more purpose and, after Kate HECTOR found the crossbar on their first penalty-corner, opened the scoring in the 14th minute by Marsha MARESCIA, picking up the rebound on another Kate HECTOR’s flick.
New Zealand promptly leveled the score 3 minutes later by Gemma FLYNN deflecting the ball in goal from close range on a shot by Lizzy IGASAN, but Jennifer WILSON put her team back into the lead one minute before half-time when she deflected the ball in goal after an excellent preparation work by Vida RYAN who entered the circle, took a chance on goal and collected the rebound for another shot.
In second half, South Africa took full advantage of their numerical advantage after a yellow card to Krystal FORGESSON to score another goal by Vida RYAN after a quick exchange of passes with Kathleen TAYLOR. They pushed the score to 4-1 in the 59th minute by Cindy BROWN on penalty-corner.
South Africa upset the odds suggested by the respective rankings of the two teams in the World Rankings (8th for New Zealand, 12th for South Africa) to hand down the wooden spoon of the 2008 Olympic competition to a New Zealand team that was a shadow of itself in this game, possibly disheartened to be in this modest position after playing well during the competition but losing 4 of their 5 pool games by a one-goal margin.
2008 Olympic Games, Women – Beijing, China
Results Friday 22 August
South Africa – New Zealand 4:1 (2:1)
RSA Marsha MARESCIA (PC) 14mn
NZL Gemma FLYNN (PC) 17mn
RSA Jennifer WILSON (FG) 34mn
RSA Vida RYAN (FG) 51mn
RSA Cindy BROWN (PC) 59mn
Australia - Great Britain 2:0 (1:0)
AUS Madonna BLYTH (FG) 29min
AUS Hope MUNRO (FG) 68min
Germany - Argentina 1:3 (0:2)
ARG Rosario LUCHETTI (PC) 11min
ARG Carla REBECCHI (FG) 22min
GER Anke KUEHN (FG) 45min
ARG Noel BARRIONUEVO (PC) 63min
China - Netherlands 0:2 (0:0)
NED Naomi van AS (PC) 51min
NED Maartje GODERIE (FG) 62min