Argentina are rewarded for their adventure

 

Argentina - 1 Holland - 1:WOMEN'S HOCKEY/World Cup Final: You'd struggle to find a finer showpiece in women's sport on a world level. In the wonderful setting of Perth Hockey Stadium, in typically glorious conditions, Argentina beat Holland 4-3 on penalty strokes yesterday, after drawing the final 1-1, to win their first world title.

The result was warmly greeted by the 5,000 crowd which, on the whole, was supporting the South Americans, favourites to win the tournament, against the European, and former World champions.

In winning gold in Perth, Argentina became only the fourth nation, after Holland, Germany and Australia, to win the World Cup, deservedly so after the form they displayed this past fortnight.

They were one minute away from winning the final in normal time, after Ines Arrondo had given them the lead in the fifth minute, before Ageeth Boomgaardt levelled a minute from time from a penalty corner.

The Argentinians, the more adventurous team for much of the game, with midfielder Luciana Aymar and defender Cecilia Rognoni excelling, fought back to have the better of much of extra time, but the Dutch, hardly the most thrilling of teams to watch at this tournament, were outstanding defensively and withstood all their opponents could throw at them.

In the end the contest went to strokes, with both goalkeepers, Mariela Antoniska for Argentina and Clarinda Sinnige for Holland, in magnificent form, saving eight of the first set of 10 strokes.

The officials came mightily close to repeating the error that led to Ireland's trip to the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year after the match with Lithuania, when they very nearly failed to reverse the order of stroke takers after the first 10 efforts. The tournament director intervened, however, to ensure that Argentina went first in the second round after Holland had gone first at the start of the competition.

Antoniska saved the 16th stroke of the competition to finally clinch victory for Argentina, heralding scenes of sheer ecstasy from her team and their supporters.

"We have trained every day for the last year - every day," said Aymar, named player of the tournament, after the game. "My English is not so good, but this, for me, is a dream, I am so happy for my team, so happy for my country. Now I go drink - beer, you understand? Adios. Thank you very much."

China took bronze, beating the hosts 2-0 yesterday, while England beat Korea on strokes to take fifth, a superb result for Tricia Heberle's team.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Jenny Burke brought Ireland's losing streak at the tournament to an end with the goal that beat Russia in the play-off for 15th-16th place. With four minutes to go in a poor game, Burke collected Katharine Maybin's pass from the left and side-stepped one defender before slipping the ball through the Russian goalkeeper's legs.

In finishing 15th Ireland made certain of their place in 2004's Olympic Qualifier in New Zealand, although Russia are also likely to make the tournament line-up.

Burke is one of eight Irish players considering retirement from international hockey - Tara Browne, Arlene Boyles, Claire McMahon, Lynsey McVicker, Daphne Sixsmith, Karen Humphreys, who won her 100th cap on Saturday, and Laura Lee are the others - but none has yet confirmed her decision, with most deciding to wait until next year before finally making up their minds.

Results: The final placings

WORLD CUP

(at Perth)

SATURDAY

Fifth-sixth: England 3 Korea 3, after extra time. England won 4-3 on penalty strokes. Seventh-eighth: Germany 6 Spain 1. Ninth-10th: USA 0 Japan 0, after extra time. USA won 4-2 on penalty strokes. Eleventh-12th: Scotland 0 New Zealand 3. Thirteeth-14th: South Africa 3, Ukraine 1. Fifteenth-16th: Ireland 1 (J Burke) Russia 0

YESTERDAY

Third-fourth: Australia 0 China 2. Final: Argentina 1 Holland 1, after extra time. Argentina won 4-3 on penalty strokes.

Final placings: 1 Argentina 2 Holland, 3 China, 4 Australia, 5 England, 6 Korea, 7 Germany, 8 Spain, 9 USA, 10 Japan, 11 New Zealand, 12 Scotland, 13 South Africa, 14 Ukraine, 15 Ireland, 16 Russia.

Player of the Tournament: Luciana Aymar (Argentina).

Fairplay Award: Argentina.

Highest Goalscorer: Pietie Coetzee (South Africa), nine goals.

Argentina captain Karina Masotta kisses the trophy after their final win

Mary Hannigan

in Perth

Argentina won 4-3 on penalty strokes.

IRELAND (v Russia): A Platt, L Caulfield, A Boyles, P Magill, K Maybin, L Lee, J Orbinson, R Kohler (capt), K Humphreys, L McVicker, J Burke. Subs: T Browne, E Cregan, C McMahon, C O'Brien, D Sixsmith.