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Dutch, Aussies seek history in final
August 26, 2004 20:55 IST
The Netherlands and Australia flew through to the Olympic men's hockey finals on Wednesday, setting up the chance for the Dutch to win a third gold in a row and for the Aussies to win their first ever title.
The Dutch fought hard against Germany to take their semi-final 3-2 while the Australians found the top of their game to blast past a young Spanish side 6-3.
"The job's not done. We haven't got what we came for yet," said Matthew Wells, who scored one of Australia's penalties.
The Australians have three silvers and three bronzes on the shelf but are under huge media pressure to shed the image of "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" and win gold.
They said they were facing the issue head on and not letting the tension get to them.
"This is a totally new team with no ties to history. We're not looking back to the past, we're looking forward to what happens in the future," said striker Jamie Dwyer.
In their match against Spain, the Kookaburras found a strength, speed and cooperation that had been patchy during the pool stages. Spain is a strong side but coach Maurits Hendriks said they had been "physically overpowered".
Troy Elder put the Aussies on the map with a short corner in the third minute and while Eduardo Tubau pulled Spain back, the Aussies' fighting attitude showed the match was already won.
A flurry of goals in the second half including a clever corner passed around and shot from the goal post staked them out as the team to beat the Netherlands.
The Dutch have not lost a match so far in Athens and beat Australia 2-1 in the pool stages.
On Wednesday, they quickly went 1-0 down but equalised with a penalty stroke just as fast.
Although the Germans had more ball possession, the Dutch made more of their opportunities including one magnificent goal from Teun de Nooijer who danced along the backline, passing to Marten Eikelboom before tapping it in.
If the Dutch win Friday's final, it will be three in a row -- the longest series since India won six golds running between 1928 and 1956, spanning the wartime break.
Again, the team is trying to avoid the pressure of history.
"Ten of the 16 here have never been to an Olympic final so the record means nothing to us. To the others, it's just motivation to work even harder," said first-timer Karel Klaver.