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Argentina make Olympics after S. Africa withdrawal

BUENOS AIRES -- World champions Argentina, who missed out on their usual ticket to the Olympic women's hockey tournament, have got into the London 2012 Games by the back door.

Las Leonas (lionesses) feared they would have to play an Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgium in March after losing the final of the Pan-American Games, held in the Mexican city of Guadalajara last month, for the first time in a 4-2 upset by the United States.

Instead, the Argentine Hockey Confederation (CAH) received confirmation on Sunday they were being invited on the basis of their ranking after South Africa gave up their direct berth.

“The International Hockey Federation has made official Las Leonas' qualification to the London 2012 Olympic Games,” the CAH said in a statement.

The South African Olympic Committee decided their women's team should play a qualifier having deemed the African nations tournament they won for a direct ticket to London as not being of sufficient standard.

Argentina had won the gold medal at every Pan-American Games since women's hockey was first played at the quadrennial event in 1987 — until their shock defeat in Guadalajara on Oct. 28.

The Argentine men qualified by beating Canada 3-1 in their Games final on Oct. 29, wresting back the Pan-American title they lost to the same rivals in Rio de Janeiro four years earlier.

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