Shackled by its own sluggishness, and also due to a spirited resistance, the Netherlands regained its touch and poise only in the second half to carve out a 6-0 victory over Canada in a Pool A tie of the Hero Honda hockey World Cup on Friday. This was the Dutch team's third successive win.
The Dutchmen have garnered full points to almost ensure a place in the last four.
With a wonderful player in the calibre of Teun de Nooijer as leader of the attack, the Dutch fashioned raids that looked pleasing to the eye and worked on a finish that satisfied a connoisseur.
But what does the Dutch team do when it is desperate for a goal? Look up to the stocky drag flicker Taeke Taekema.
After three fruitless penalty corners and a barren first half, the indomitable Taekema eased the tension by hitting the target from the team's fifth penalty corner shortly after resumption.
This triggered a Dutch resurgence and the attack gained fluency and fervour. Rogier Hoffmann, Floris Evers and Ronald Brouwer touched their wonted form with Nooijer serving as the fulcrum.
The proficiency with which Nooijer did the spadework for the second goal that Brouwer scored was eye-catching.
Setback for Korea
Earlier, Korea suffered a setback and surrendered, before the mode and methods of New Zealand, by the odd goal in three. The Asian champion failed to come up with its usual flair and speed against the well-organised Kiwi defensive phalanx headed by the goal-keeper Pontifex.
The Koreans scored their goal with just 23 seconds left before the hooter from a penalty stroke, which the Kiwis hotly disputed with umpire Satinder Kumar. On the day's showing, the Kiwis cannot be grudged their win.
Led commendably in the midfield by Ryan Archibald, with support from Dean Couzins and Blair Hopping, the Kiwis were composed in their movements. There was no evidence of intense pressure or hurly-burly action in the goal area. They Kiwis prowled like silent assassins.
With the match four minutes old, the Kiwis found the target from a clean penalty corner hit by Andrew Hayward. Whatever retaliation came from the Koreans, it looked lukewarm. The combination of Archibald, Haig and Hopping ensured that the Koreans did not enough space to break in. The Koreans could manage only a solitary penalty corner in the first half.
The Kiwis widened the margin midway through from a penalty stroke when the elusive Prajesh Bhana was obstructed inside the circle. Dean Couzins converted with a touch of fuss.
The Korean attack, surprisingly, failed to achieve that touch of pace. Though skipper Jong Ho played his heart out, in this level of the game one swallow does not make a summer.
A measure of the Kiwi defensive work can be gauged from the way the Koreans were denied success in the five penalty corners they forced in the second half. While it is incomprehensible as to why the Kiwis went on the defensive in this period, the means employed to nullify the penalty corners were praiseworthy. A large measure of credit should go to the goalkeeper, Kyle Pontifex.
New Zealand has six points from three matches and Korea's tally is four from the same number.
The unpredictable Argentina gave Germany, the defending champion several suspenseful moments before going down in the last match. Germany surged ahead within a few minutes from start from a goal by Martin Zwicker. Before the cheers died Argentina levelled from a spectacular shot by Lucas Vila.
Zwicker struck again midway through followed by Matthias Witthaus whose shot from the top of the circle gave no chance to goal-keeper Juan Tomas. Close on half-time, Mathias Parades, put Argentina back in the fight.
The tempo escalated after resumption and Martin Haner scored off a penalty corner only to see Argentina come back again through a penalty corner by Padro Ibarra.
Germany won in the end, but it had to struggle a good deal.
The results: Pool A: New Zealand 2 (Andrew Hayward, Dean Couzins) bt Korea 1 (Young Lee Nam). HT 2-0; Netherlands 6 (Taeke Taekema 2, Ronald Brouwer, Rogier Hoffmann 2, Rob Reckers) bt Canada 0. HT 0-0; Germany 4 (Martin Zwicker 2, Matthias Witthaus, Martin Haner) beat Argentina 3 (Lucas Vila, Mathias Parades, Padro Ibarra) HT 3-2.
Saturday's matches: Australia vs. Spain (4.35 p.m.); South Africa vs. Pakistan (6.35 p.m.); England vs. India (8.35 p.m.).