It’s the dream matchup between Australia and the Netherlands that everyone had touted as the sure fire gold medal contest this morning, just a little earlier than we expected. Join The Roar from 7am (AEST) for all the live highlights and action.
Not the gold medal match, but the quarter-finals is where these two behemoths of international hockey will do battle today.
Ranked No.1 and No.2 in the world, Australia and the Netherlands were surprised in the group stages and hit with unexpected losses despite coming into the tournament as heavy favourites at the top medals.
The Kookaburras finished third in Group A, thanks mainly to a destructive 9-goals-to-nil win over Brazil in their final game.
While the Dutch hung on for second place in Group B despite a loss to Germany in their final pool game.
Shock losses to Spain and Belgium threw the Aussies on the back foot and even threatened elimination, before a tight win over Great Britain and the aforementioned Brazil match got them back on track and firing for the quarter-finals.
The Netherlands had nearly the exact opposite run into the finals. After coming off huge 7-0 and 5-0 wins over Canada and Ireland respectively, the Dutch hit a road bump with a shaky, less than convincing, one-goal win over India leading in to the loss against Germany.
These two sides have plenty of history in the big tournaments, with an intense rivalry atop the hockey mountain.
Australia beat the Dutch 6-1 in the final of the 2014 World Cup, making it the fifth time in the last six World Cups that the two sides had knocked each other out in the semi or grand final, dating back to 1994.
Just to add that little extra spice, the Netherlands knocked out Australia in the semi-finals of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, denying them gold in front of their home crowd.
This one could be a match of the tournament contender if both sides brush off the cobwebs of their earlier games and pull out their strongest performances, which they’ll need to if they want to get past either of the best sides in the world.
The Netherlands have looked stronger throughout the tournament so far for mine, with a deadly short corner and probably the best front line in world hockey.
Based off their games in the group stage, it’s going to be a tough hill to climb for the Kookaburras but they’re coming into the contest with a big win in their pockets and a lot of confidence.
It’s going to be tight, that’s a given, but my Australian bias aside I think it will be a draw, probably one-all, at the end of regulation time – and an Australian goal in extra time will get the job done.