The German women's hockey team overcame a resilient Japanese side with a comfortable 4-0 victory in Group B at Sochi 2014.
Goals from Manuela Anwander and Kerstin Spielberger, in addition to two goals from Franziska Busch, harvested the win for the European side, who finish their Olympic Games third overall in the group.
The German team opened the scoring in the first period through Anwander on 13 minutes, with assists from Sophie Kratzer and Maritta Becker, and it stayed 1-0 until the end of the first period.
They made it 2-0 after 20 minutes, after Busch scored following a clever play from Andrea Lanzl.
The Japanese then battled hard for over 30 minutes before being put to the sword in the third period.
Two goals in the final two minutes completed the scoring, first by Spielberger, who was assisted by Tanja Eisenschmid and Nina Kamenik, and in the dying seconds Busch got her second of the match after being set up by Susann Gotz.
It was a morale-boosting victory for the German team, who will now feel that their Olympics have not been a complete failure. The Japanese team has been very much a fan favourite in this tournament and many of their supporters will be sad to see them exit, after entertaining the crowds.
It is the first time that Japan has featured in the ice hockey competition since the 1998 Nagano Olympics, per Olympics.org, and the team was dubbed "Smile Japan" for the happiness it brought with its plucky play. Many will hope to see them at future Games to add this extra value to the competition.
Germany was never likely to progress from this preliminary group stage, and was always the third-best team in Group B, behind the power and class of Russia and Sweden.
As a qualifying nation along with Japan, can the Germans improve sufficiently to take on the likes of Russia and Sweden? The answer currently is no. They conceded four times against the other European nations and will find it hard to catch them in the years to come.
They are stuck in the middle ground, where they are too good for the likes of Japan and other smaller ice hockey nations, and not yet good enough for the elite teams. It will be a difficult few years for them before the next Olympics comes around, as they try to improve sufficiently to challenge at a higher level.
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