Another European title, but having to win everything puts pressure on Dutch hockey players

They have always been a favorite of gold everywhere. At the European Championships, the World Championships and the Olympics. Once again in Tokyo, the Dutch women want to become hockey Olympic champions. As if no one else was involved.

The Orange Women have been carrying that status of the only unbeaten hockey team in the world for about seventeen or eighteen years. This does not mean that they can always live up to expectations: the Netherlands lost, for example, in the last Olympic final against Great Britain. Wrong, according to experts. But goals are only counted at the end of the day.

On Sunday afternoon, in the sun-soaked Amsterdam pose, the Dutch Hockey Association’s miracle team lived up to high expectations by prolonging the ‘mere’ European title again. The Netherlands did not play well. It was mostly slow and quick, but the specific attraction of the Dutch team was that Germany, ranked third in the world, was high again. Despite a few German penalty corners and other scoring opportunities. Also, thanks to an excellent goalkeeper Josein Goining in the final.

Swelling cabinet

But with the victory in the final (2-0) the Dutch women added the eleventh European title to KNHP’s inflated cup cabinet. Eleven gold medals at fifteen European Championships since 1984. The game world knows nothing better than this.

But it does not happen automatically. No one feels this better than Australian-born national coach Alison Annan, who has been tinkering for years with a team that the hockey public considers a hockey machine. But there are a lot of jobs, thousands of training hours. New players, dropouts, injuries, renewals, setbacks and tears.

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“We should not think that everything is easy. We are working hard to be No. 1,” Annan told the NOS camera on Sunday afternoon. . It’s not like that. Women work very hard to win these competitions. ”

Must see in Tokyo

Because having to win everything is stressful. During the European Championships in Amsterdam, the hockey players had a different challenge: it gave the players one last chance to show Annan that it would soon be essential in Tokyo.

As for that selection, 21-year-old Stella van Giles stood in a positive direction on Sunday. To his own surprise, the technically talented Pinochet player made his debut for the Netherlands last month and could easily go into the game. He decorated the corner towards the end goal, which was a tried and tested variation, which was eventually coded by reporter Marlos Keatles (1-0). Only in the final minutes of the match did Frederick Madla, who scored the most points of the match, win on a quick-acting counter (2-0). This is the eighth time the European Championship has been held.

So back to gold. But a walk through the Olympic Park is definitely not going to be in Tokyo. Despite the European title, many weaknesses appeared in Amstelvin. For example, in the semi-final against Belgium in the third quarter, the Netherlands were sometimes knocked out and Annan’s team could not get out of hockey. This was with a strong warning from the Belgian women, but Annan must have been shocked to see what he saw. “It’s a little weak, everyone felt it,” Eva de Coyte said of it.

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Confusion

In the final against Germany, led by the Belgian national coach Xavier Reckinger and his Dutch assistant Dean de Nயிijer, the turmoil between the Dutch players ruled from time to time. Annan sees this as a positive starting point for the start of the sports summer. “Towards sports we need tough games. It has to be tough. Teams are good; if we are not 100 percent good, it’s very difficult.”

Dutch players celebrate European title with national coach Alison Annan.
Photo by Goyan Suik / ANP

He knows that no matter how much the Netherlands has dominated international hockey at the Olympics in the past, no team has shown in the past that it can guarantee sporting success. The last Olympic hockey tournament, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, was a prime example: apparently the most powerful Netherlands – and then stars like Marty Baumen, Naomi van Ass and Ellen Hooke – failed miserably to beat the women of Greater Holland. .

In London in 2012, the Netherlands almost suffocated New Zealand in the semi-finals, but the shoot-outs saved the day. In 2004, in Athens, the best team did not become Olympic champions, but Germany.

The experience and strength of the generation that won two Olympic golds (Beijing 2008 and London 2012) and one silver (Rio de Janeiro 2016) is not present in Annan’s current team. After the last disappointing match, Annan has completely rebuilt the team. The fact that it has no influence on the results of the game below shows that he has enough talent and experience for a smooth transition between generations with his updated team.

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Ruthless

This means that the Netherlands is growing as a unique sports team internationally. In addition to all the titles, hockey players have consistently topped the world rankings since 2011. The biggest challenge is to be flawless and ruthless in some moments of fierce opposition.

Because fair is fair: Team position in many international tournaments is often not a hot one for the Netherlands. In this European Championship, too, the Orange team happily scored in the group stage: 4-0 against Ireland, 7-1 against Spain (advanced to the semi-finals) and 10-0 against Scotland. Wonderful for the public, great for self-confidence, but the Netherlands is rarely tested before the medals are actually distributed.

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