London: Defending champion Germany and the Netherlands executed stunning semifinal results to set up their first Olympic field hockey final on Thursday.
The Germans came from 2-1 down to run over world champion Australia 4-2 in the last 20 minutes, then the Dutch put on a show of ruthless artistry in humiliating host Britain 9-2.
The Netherlands’ biggest Olympic victory and Britain’s worst loss added up to the most lopsided semifinal win since 1936, when India downed France 10-0.
Germany and the Netherlands have won four of the last five Olympics but Europe’s best teams have never met for the gold medal until now.
That showdown on Saturday will be six days after their pool match won 3-1 by the Netherlands.
“(Germany) should be afraid of us,” Dutch forward Billy Bakker said. “Mentally we are stronger than them.”
The Dutch could achieve the first-ever Olympic double, as their defending champion women meet Argentina in Friday’s final.
Australia came to London the favourite for Olympic gold after winning the last four Champions Trophies and the 2010 World Cup, where Germany was beaten in the final.
The Kookaburras had shown some vulnerability in draws with Argentina and Britain, but a formidable lineup headed by the game’s best player, Jamie Dwyer, still finished the pool stage with the most goals and meanest defense.
“We didn’t expect to just walk out and win,” forward Glenn Turner said. “We made a few mistakes today that were uncharacteristic. We played better in the first half than Germany, but in the second half Germany went for goals.”
The No. 2-ranked Germans never lost their confidence even after going 1-0 and 2-1 down and having a brilliant solo goal by Oskar Deecke disallowed, much to the capacity crowd’s displeasure. In fact, after Australia’s second goal in the 42nd minute, the Germans dominated the rest of the fast-paced semifinal.
“It was absolutely crazy,” Germany goalkeeper Max Weinhold said. “Two times we had to come from one goal back to make the draw then win.”
Kieran Govers opened for Australia off a rebound, smashing in a volley that bounced under Weinhold and Germany leveled soon after when Moritz Fuerste, one of 10 Beijing gold medallists in the squad, fired a penalty corner into the lower left corner.
Turner put Australia back in front after the break, pouncing on a rebound. The Australians would have been expected to take command, but they faded for the third time in their last four matches, as Germany exposed them on the wings and brilliantly finished its chances.
Four-time Olympian Matthias Witthaus made it 2-2 and five minutes later the Germans were in front for the first time in the match.
Timo Wess, who captained Germany to gold in Beijing, scored from a penalty corner then Florian Fuchs, the team’s youngest member at 20, clinched it with a field goal in the 63rd, diving full length to deflect a pass into the goal.
Britain played its first semifinal since it won the 1988 Seoul Games and it quickly became apparent that the Dutch, the only team to win all of their pool games, were in another class.
“(Five-time Olympian) Teun de Nooijer told me on the bench, ‘I have played a lot of semifinals, but it has never happened this big before,’” forward Roderick Weusthof said. “It was unbelievable.”
Weusthof and Billy Bakker both scored hat tricks and De Nooijer, Mink van der Weerden and captain Floris Evers also netted for the Netherlands. Ashley Jackson and Robert Moore got the Britain goals.
The only concern for the Netherlands on Thursday were injuries: coach Paul van Ass said Klaas Vermeulen broke his collarbone and tournament high-scorer Van der Weerden will undergo a scan on his right foot after it was hit by a ball.
Germany will play for its fourth gold medal, second only to India’s eight, while the Netherlands will seek its third gold. The No. 3-ranked Dutch have timed their run right, following bronze at the 2010 World Cup, silver to Germany at the European championship, and bronze at the 2011 Champions Trophy.
“When we work like this and when we give each other the ball and believe in it, nobody can stop us,” Weusthof said.
Earlier, Pakistan twice came from a goal down to edge South Korea 3-2 to place 7th, and New Zealand finished 9th by beating Argentina 3-1.