New Zealand's Gemma Flynn, fights for the ball with Australia's Karri McMahon, left, and Australia's Jane Claxton, right, during a women's field hockey quarterfinal match at 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/
Hussein Malla
August 15, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The Netherlands survived its toughest test yet in Olympic women's field hockey when it edged No. 2-ranked Argentina 3-2 on Monday to push its gold medal threat into the semifinals.

The No. 1 vs. No. 2 contest was a rematch of the 2012 London Games final, but far more thrilling.

The Netherlands led 3-0 after 37 minutes, most of them in the rain. But when the clouds closed back up, Argentina came out to play, and scored twice while the Dutch were women down from yellow cards. Despite pressing the Dutch within their own 23 for the last eight minutes, Argentina could not get off a shot, leaving them out of the Olympic medals for the first time in 20 years.

The Netherlands' quest for an unprecedented third straight gold medal put them in Germany's path on Wednesday. Both have won gold, but not the other semifinalists, New Zealand and Britain, either of which will reach an Olympic final for the first time.

The Dutch and Argentina were seeded to meet in the final until Argentina lost three preliminary games and qualified last in its pool. Still, the rivalry and quarterfinal match was big enough to attract King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, who cheered and chanted with Dutch fans.

The Dutch went up 2-0 in the rain, with great solo goals by Lidewij Welten and Laurien Leurink. Losing the fight in midfield, Argentina's only shots of the half came from penalty corners.

When the Netherlands moved ahead 3-0, after a penalty corner popped up off an Argentine defender and Kelly Jonker whipped in the ball, the result seemed certain. But the Dutch hurt themselves through yellow cards to Eva de Goede, Naomi van As and Margot van Geffen, and the Argentines pounced with penalty corner goals to Florencia Habif and Delfina Merino.

''Three cards was a bit hard,'' Welten said. ''One we could handle, two was harder. .... But we kept going, and we are the deserved winner.''

Argentina pulled its goalie, which almost backfired, and pinned the Dutch, but mistraps and too-easy turnovers undermined the Argentines' comeback.

''We gave everything we had on the pitch,'' Argentina captain Carla Rebecchi said. ''Sometimes you have to go, and today it was us.''

Earlier, black smoke swept over the stadium from a nearby bush fire as Britain won its sixth straight match when it handled Spain 3-1.

The first half seemed to be a glorified training run for Britain as Georgie Twigg, Helen Richardson-Walsh and Lily Owsley capped superb teamwork for 3-0 and didn't give Spain a shot on goal.

But Spain, which reached the knockout rounds only when China lost its last pool match, showed pride and went down swinging. Lola Riera was denied on the goal-line, and Lucia Jimenez hit the post before Georgina Oliva scored to make Britain sweat a little.

New Zealand earned a shot at its first Olympic medal by beating Australia 4-2, only its third win over its trans-Tasman neighbor in major competition since the London Games.

Anita McLaren and Kelsey Smith scored from penalty corners for the Kiwis' 2-0 lead at halftime, but a backlash was expected and Kathryn Slattery hit in a rebound from a short corner to halve the deficit.

But New Zealand's reply was quick, too, as Gemma Flynn and Olivia Merry gave the Black Sticks insurance with a quarter to go, and goalie Sally Rutherford and the defense limited the outgunned Hockeyroos to one more too-late Slattery goal.

Australia was out of medal contention for a fourth consecutive Olympics since the last of its three gold medals in Sydney in 2000, while New Zealand was through to the semifinals for the second straight games.

''This team has got so much depth and we're just starting to click,'' New Zealand captain Kayla Whitelock said. ''If we keep playing the way we're playing, believing in ourselves and having the confidence, and executing our game plan, then that's going to get us through to that (gold) medal match.''

One-time champion Germany scored early and held on to beat the United States 2-1 for its best result since 2012, before the last Olympics.

Germany hit the Americans quick. Marie Mavers and Lisa Altenburg had them up 2-0 within 14 minutes, and the Americans still hadn't had a shot on goal. It evened up the rest of the way, but the defenses ruled in 36 degree (97 degree F) heat.

The Americans brought some tension back through Katelyn Falgowski, but the U.S. threat limped away when leading scorer Katie Bam hyper-extended her knee.

The men's semifinals on Tuesday are Germany vs. Argentina and Belgium vs. Netherlands.

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