One particular international sports competition is getting a vast majority of media coverage at the moment, but Saturday also marks the 2014 Women's Hockey World Cup final. The hosting Netherlands should see an enthusiastic home crowd out in support of their battle for the title against Australia.
Both sides advanced through Group A, and the Dutch got the better of the first meeting, claiming victory by a score of 2-0. Australia will be out for revenge this time around, now with the Cup on the line.
Below is a preview of what to expect in this marquee field hockey matchup at The Hague's Kyocera Stadion. For viewing information, check out the listings for each country at the International Hockey Federation's official website.
Note: USA live stream available on Watch ESPN.
It's going to be pretty tough for Australia to topple the Netherlands, who scored 17 goals and conceded just one in fix group games. A 4-0 triumph in the semi-finals over Argentina followed.
Argentina was thought to be a legitimate contender to repeat as World Cup champions after beating the Netherlands in 2010's final. However, the Dutch dismantled them, jumping out to an early lead and never looking back. Oranje star Kim Lammers led the way with two goals, and noted afterwards how vital it was to seize the momentum from the beginning, per FIH.ch:
When you have scored two goals in the first 20 minutes you make it very hard for the opposition to play their game. We played a really good game tonight; probably the best we have played so far in the competition. Yes, we were scoring, but our defence and our tackling all over the field was also very good.
England cricket star Jonathan Bairstow chimed in with his simple yet effective analysis:
The Netherlands' all-around display is enviable, and their form suggests they are indomitable at the moment. They are the reigning Olympic champions as it is, so that has to be intimidating for any adversaries. In 1998, Australia defeated the hosting Oranje in the final 3-2, so there should be even more motivation for the Dutch to bounce back, even though the two teams are totally different now.
The road to the final hasn't been as easy for Australia, as they needed penalties to get past the United States 3-2. Jayde Taylor made history with her 100th cap for her victorious side:
Credit the Hockeyroos for fighting through the adversity and recovering from a 68th-minute goal by the USA's Kelsey Kolojejchick. That can be a rallying point, and the good news is that Australia can play with no holds barred, since they are to be a rather substantial underdog.
Since the inception of the Women's Hockey World Cup in 1974, the Netherlands has the most titles with six and has failed to reach the final just twice in the tournament. After bouncing back from the 2010 loss to Argentina, it would be a shock if they were denied by Australia.
With how aggressive the Hockeyroos should play, and the possibility of the Oranje having somewhat of a letdown after demolishing the competition with ease thus far, this should still be a tight title clash. Goalkeeper Rachael Lynch will keep Australia close, but in the end, the Netherlands will reign superior.
Just to get to the final is a victory in and of itself for Australia. Although it will be disappointing to head back home with a loss as their last result, there's no shame in losing to this high-octane Netherlands club. Lynch's heroics and the ability to grind past an up-and-coming U.S. team will give the Hockeyroos enough positive takeaways to build on for the future.
This prospective win would just confirm the Netherlands' status as the preeminent power in women's field hockey. It does help that they are hosting the World Cup, but under any circumstances, they have been the best international team all year long. They proved it in the 2012 London Olympics and now will confirm it in The Hague.
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