Hockeyroos face must-win battle
Sun, 05 Aug 2012 11:28a.m.
By Guy Hand
The Hockeyroos have lived on the edge in their Olympic Games campaign.
Now it's time to jump, and fly or die.
The Hockeyroos must beat world No.2 Argentina in their final Pool B match on Monday to guarantee a women's hockey semi-final spot in what is now a four-way battle for the top two places in the group.
Argentina's 3-1 win over Germany late on Saturday, and New Zealand's late winner for a 3-2 victory over the United States did the Hockeyroos no favours.
Argentina, New Zealand and Australia all have three wins each - and the Hockeyroos are currently lowest of the trio on goal difference.
Fourth-placed Germany can also still make the semi-finals, but must hammer New Zealand in their encounter on Monday and hope for a clear winner in the Australia-Argentina match.
Hockeyroos coach Adam Commens has been bullish throughout about his side's prospects of a top two finish, even after a shock first match loss to New Zealand which left them playing catch-up throughout in a difficult group.
But he remains confident his side can produce something special against Argentina after posting their third successive win of the tournament - albeit an unconvincing 1-0 victory over South Africa on Saturday.
"If we win against Argentina we're in, and I wouldn't be surprised even if we're first in the group," Commens said.
"I think our destiny is in our hands now."
Goalkeeper Toni Cronk made a succession of important saves - including three penalty corner stops in the final six minutes - as the Hockeyroos defended for their lives to see off the world No.12.
Jade Close's beautifully struck eighth minute goal from great Casey Eastham lead-up work proved the match-winner at Riverbank Arena.
But it was followed by 62 far more nerve-jangling minutes as South Africa created the better chances and Cronk continued her extraordinary tournament with a succession of great saves.
First the 32-year-old blocked Kate Woods' penalty corner rocket on 16 minutes, before two huge saves in 45 seconds from Pietie Coetzee and Kathleen Taylor.
To add to the Hockeyroos' nerves, striker Georgia Nanscawen was yellow-carded late, and her suspension left Australia a player down as they continued to face waves of South African attack.
But Cronk produced more magic with her three late penalty corner stops, with the Hockeyroos' defence outstanding and nerveless throughout.
In Pool A, world No.1 the Netherlands sealed a place in the semi-finals with a 3-2 win over South Korea on Saturday.
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