Spain defeated the Netherlands 3-1 yesterday to set up a field hockey Champions Trophy final showdown with defending champions Australia, who downed hosts New Zealand 2-1.
In the bottom half of the eight-nation tournament, Germany crushed Pakistan 5-0 to leave the Green Shirts facing a wooden spoon play-off with South Korea, who were defeated 4-3 in a thriller against Great Britain.
Australia, chasing a record fourth straight title at men’s hockey’s last major tournament before the London Olympics, have won 11 times overall, while Spain’s sole success came in 2004.
Spain, out to make amends after placing sixth at the European Championships, maintained the attacking game they have adopted at the Auckland tournament and never relinquished the lead after Eduard Tubau scored in the second minute.
Roc Oliva doubled their advantage on 25 minutes and, while Bob de Voogd pulled one back for the Netherlands just before half time, Spain dominated the renowned Dutch defense throughout.
The pressure paid off with a Jorge Dabanch field goal after the break and Spain could have blown out the score further, if not for a fine display from Dutch ’keeper Jacob Stockmann.
Netherlands coach Paul van Ass said the Spaniards had proved “they’re on the world level again.”
“Sometimes in sport you have to admit that somebody else is better and in this game it was Spain,” he said.
Spain lost 3-2 to Australia in the opening round of the tournament, but pushed the defending champions, with Kookaburras skipper Jamie Dwyer admitting they were lucky to come away with a win.
Spanish coach Daniel Martin said he expected a tough, physical final and his team would aim to upset the Australia’s rhythm early.
“The most important thing is to break the defense first, [we can] if we can play like we did today against Holland,” he said.
Australia’s Dwyer was named world player of the year for a record fifth time before the 2-1 win over New Zealand, which had no bearing on the final day’s play today as the Kookaburras qualified for the decider with a game in hand.
Meanwhile, Pakistan slumped to their fourth loss in five matches, failing to build on a promising 6-2 win over South Korea, as Germany ruthlessly exploited their frailties in a five-goal mauling.
“The Germans played the game of the tournament, they did not make mistakes,” Pakistan team manager Khawaja Junaid said of the reigning Olympic champions.
“We tried to hold them, but they played at top pace with long bounces and [pressure] coming from both sides. It’s clear there’s still a difference between Pakistan and Germany,” he added.
In the other Pool D match, South Korea squandered a 2-0 lead to go down 4-3 to Great Britain.