NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands were the class of the field again in this tournament. In five games, the Dutch women were perfect in scoring 12 goals and only allowing five against. The Netherlands saw good all-around scoring from a number of players, making them extremely dangerous on the offensive end of the pitch. Their defence has been exceptional, turning away penalty corners and offensive chances regularly. Because of their record and play, the Dutch women should be your favorites heading into their semi-final match against New Zealand.
NEW ZEALAND: The Kiwis were a group that came into the tournament determined and focused after winning the Oceanic Cup in 2011. The finished second in Pool B, but their strong play saw them defeat Australia 1-0 on July 29 to start the tournament off right. In defeating Australia, the tie-breaker would go to New Zealand if necessary. In seeing Germany falter against Australia, that gave the New Zealand women a chance to capture one of the top two spots if they continued to play well. They finished the tournament 3-1-1 in losing to Argentina and drawing with Germany, and the tie-breaker pushed them past the Australians for a shot at a medal.
The Kiwis may find themselves in tough against a strong Dutch squad. New Zealand doesn't score in bunches, so they'll need to play near-perfect defence to beat the reigning Olympic champions. Unfortunately, I can't see the Dutch faltering, so New Zealand may play for the bronze medal after all is said and done.
ARGENTINA: It appeared the Argentinians may have come into the tournament with the idea that they could cruise through the preliminary rounds based on their world ranking. After a shocking loss to the United States, Argentina woke up and rattled off wins against New Zealand and Germany before drawing with Australia. Because of their win over New Zealand, they would win any tie-breaker with New Zealand. Their matching 3-1-1 records at the end of the preliminaries pushed Argentina to the top of the pool, New Zealand into second-place, and the Aussies out of medal contention.
Argentina will have their hands full with a strong British squad that looks energized playing in front of their home crowd. However, Argentina has looked better and better as the tournament progressed, and we could see the Argentinians deliver a heart-wrenching blow to the British population with a win over the Britons.
GREAT BRITAIN: The British ladies come into the medal round with the worst preliminary record at 3-2-0. The started off strong with wins over Japan, Korea, and Belgium, but dropped their final two games to China and the Netherlands by 2-1 scores. The British ladies certainly have the speed and finish to capitalize, but it seems that they get caught by teams looking to slow the pace in games. The British women will have to force the pace if they want to beat the Argentinians.
I'm not sure if the British women will be able to get past a ball-controlling team like the Argentinians. They play well and like to push the action downfield, but they need the ball to do that, and the Argentinians like to play a very controlled, structured game. It should be a good match, but Great Britain may be in trouble in this game.
There are your medal contenders in the London Olympic Games, ladies and gentlemen. Honestly, the Dutch are an impressive squad, and I really encourage to catch their games if you can. They play the game as well as any men's team does, and they have enough talent to probably send two squads. In any event, though, anything can happen in a one-and-done format, so we'll see what happens when the semi-finals start on August 8!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!