Playing with overwhelming crowd support from fans, who crossed into neighboring Brazil in large numbers, Argentina handed 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions Germany their worst ever hockey defeat in recent memory. While India couldn’t make the expected dent in hockey, Argentina distinguished themselves by registering their best finish in Olympics. Ranked 7th in the world, Argentina have already surpassed their best 5th place finish in London’s 1948 Games but had a lowly 10th place performance in London again in 2012. On the other hand, Germany have been the hockey powerhouse along with Australia in recent times and recorded back-to-back top finish in 2008 and 2012 Games in Beijing and London. However, Tuesday night didn’t belong to them. Argentina played amazingly and helped by Gonzalo Peillat’s hat-trick of penalties surged to a 3-0 halftime lead. That swelled to 5-0 before Germany pulled two goals back in closing stages. Having already assured themselves of at least a silver medal, Argentina will look for an even better finish, when they play against Belgium on Friday August 19. Belgium came through by defeating the Netherlands 3-1 in the other semifinal later on Tuesday evening.
When Germany came face-to-face with Argentina for their semifinal match, they were fully aware of some close matches, where they had won in dying moments. The first one was against India in league phase, when the winning goal came with 3 seconds remaining and in the quarterfinals against New Zealand on Sunday, Germany barely managed to squeeze into the round-of-four by scoring 3 times in the last 5 minutes after trailing 0-2. The Argentinian team management had been watching videos of Germany’s matches and they prepared themselves for all surprise elements.
On match day, besides their improved status in hockey, Argentina also had sumptuous crowd support from those, who had come to the Olympic Hockey Center in Deodoro from neighboring home cities for the match. Halfway into the first quarter, Argentina earned their first penalty corner and defender Gonzalo Peillat produced a powerful drag-flick that found the net. The South Americans doubled their lead just before the 15-minute period ended, when Peillat converted Argentina’s second penalty corner as well. By the time the second quarter began, Germany were already downcast and they conceded another penalty corner. Gonzalo Peillat stepped up and completed his hat-trick to take Argentina to a 3-0 lead. Besides, the Argentine also took his tally of goals to 10 in this tournament.
Five minutes after halftime, Joaquin Menini made it 4-0 for Argentina from a brilliant effort by Agustin Mazzilli. Menini was in great position, when Mazzilli dodged a defender and scooped the ball over the German goalkeeper’s head. All Menini required to do was an easy tap into the open goal. Germany had completely lost their rhythm by this time and to make it even worse for them, Argentina shot into a 5-0 lead with a fourth quarter goal from Lucas Vila in open play. Now the only thing Argentina needed to do was to quell any last- minute German miracle, like of which they had pulled off against India and New Zealand. Germany still did their best to score two goals in the last 10 minutes by Moritz Furste and Christopher Ruhr. However, with only minutes remaining, the 5-2 difference was too great for them to upstage Argentina.
Friday’s gold medal match will be a contest between two first-time finalists in the Olympic Games. That ensures that the 2016 Summer Games will produce a new champion in men’s hockey. In the other semifinal played later in the day, Belgium defeated Netherlands 3-1 to earn the right of meeting Argentina on August 19. Belgium, who came to the semifinal by beating India, played serenely against the two-time Olympic champions Netherlands. They played a goalless first quarter before an eventful second quarter accounted for three goals. The first came from Belgium’s Jerome Truyens, who latched on to a penalty-corner rebound and found the net to take his team 1-0 ahead. Minutes later, Belgian captain John-John Dohmen made it 2-0 from a field goal. Dohmen was in a great position, when he received a promising pass from Cedric Charlier and his close-range strike sailed into the goal. One minute before the halftime, Netherlands reduced the deficit to 2-1, when Mink van der Weerden succeeded in finding the Belgian net. After a goalless third quarter, Belgium’s Florent van Aubel scored from field effort and ensured that his country would enter their maiden hockey final in the history of Olympic Games.
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