| Jubilant Argentine players after winning a dramatic penalty shootout against The Netherlands in Perth on Sunday. Argentina won 4-3 to clinch their maiden title. (AP/PTI)
Perth: Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties on Sunday to win the women’s hockey World Cup for the first time.
Argentina had been beaten in three previous World Cup finals and also lost the final at the Sydney Olympics before breaking through on Sunday to claim their first major title in dramatic fashion.
“It’s incredible, we are world champions for the first time,” Argentine coach Sergio Vigi said. “We are so glad through sport to bring joy to our country.”
Player of the Tournament, Argentina’s Luciana Aymar, said her award was a tribute to the whole team. “There are people in Argentina dying of hunger and if we can win this tournament in sport to make people at home happy it is worthwhile,” she said.
The teams were tied at 1-1 and were still locked together after two periods of extra-time failed to produce another goal, forcing the shootout.
Even that was desperately close, with 16 shots needed to decide the outcome in Argentina’s favour.
The South Americans had taken the early lead during regular time when Ines Arrondo scored in the fifth minute but then sat back on their lead, spending the rest of the game defending.
Their tactics seemed to have paid off until Ageeth Boomgaardt equalised for the Dutch with just two minutes remaining.
The teams were still level at 1-1 after two periods of extra-time, forcing the match into a penalty shootout which also provided plenty of drama.
The shootout became sudden-death after eight of the first 10 penalties were saved by the rival goalkeepers, Mariela Antoniska and Clarinda Sinnige.
The match was not decided until the 16th stroke when Antoniska pulled off another save with her team leading 4-3, igniting wild celebrations among the Argentine players.
Earlier in the day, China upset Australia 2-0 in the bronze medal playoff, condemning the host-nation to their worst World Cup result in 16 years.
Ma Yibo opened the scoring in the 13th minute before Chinese captain Chen Zhaoxia made it 2-0 with a goal three minutes before halftime.
The defeat was Australia’s worst performance since they took fifth place at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Australia also won gold at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
“We thought we were in the top three in the world coming into this tournament and we have been proven wrong,” Australian coach David Bell said.