The Dutch hockey team has won the cracker at the European Championship against rival Belgium after shoot-outs. As a result, the team will play against Germany on Saturday for the first main prize in four years.
By Rik Spekenbrink
With an A4 in one hand and his stick and helmet in the other, goalie Pirmin Blaak trudged to his post. Whether the sheet of paper contained all Belgian secrets about the shoot-outs remains to be seen later. But Blaak helped his team to the European Championship final last night. He managed to force three takers into a foul, in a blistering series in which the video referee was busy and Max Caldas prayed to the sky.
There is no such thing as revenge, the national coach always says. Still, the minds of many went back to 2018, when Belgium decided the World Cup final in India via the shoot-outs. Now the roles were reversed. Jeroen Hertzberger, Thijs van Dam and Jorrit Croon scored, compared to only Felix Denayer with the Belgians.
The win over Belgium was good for more than just a place in the final. As reigning European and world champions and recently winner of the Pro League, the ‘Red Lions’ have grown in recent years to become the best men’s hockey players. Precisely at home, the Wagener Stadium was filled with 2700 fans, the Netherlands could not afford another defeat against its southern neighbors. Then the team of national coach Max Caldas would have boarded the plane to Tokyo in a few weeks with a somewhat battered confidence.
The Netherlands and Belgium did not quite have the same intentions, this week in Amstelveen. With the team of New Zealand national coach Shane McLeod, the European Championship was even more dominated by the Games. There, Belgium came second in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. With several titles under his belt, only the most important prize remains. The Netherlands cannot afford to use a European Championship as a practice tournament, certainly not in its own country. Caldas did make his Olympic selection known at an early stage, on the one hand to create peace, on the other hand and to be able to work with the Tokyo group during the European Championship.
But of course Belgium also wanted to win the semi-final. It was also the most threatening team in the scoreless first quarter. Goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak had to play twice to prevent a goal. On the other hand, the Netherlands did decorate a penalty corner, which was pushed wide, but it barely made it through the Belgian defense. The second quarter was slightly more expected in terms of game play, but the Netherlands could not manage more than a ball in front of Thierry Brinkman in the hostile circle. Belgium was a bit more decisive, without creating many scoring opportunities. But where duels between the two countries sometimes got bogged down in chess hockey, it was now intense and attractive.
The Netherlands went in search of the equalizer, but sometimes played too sloppy and seemed to lose themselves in discussions with the referees. Time was running out, but the 1-1 came in time. Seve van Ass was sharp when a Belgian lost the ball for a while, took the first two with Thierry Brinkman and then rounded out hard and beautiful in the far corner. The frustration and relief splashed off, but one minute later it was already 1-2, when Alexander Hendrickx used a penalty corner. The Orange was able to start again, but came alongside again. Jip Janssen used the fourth Dutch penalty corner, which slipped through under goalkeeper Vanasch.
So shoot outs. Blaak came out of his goal one time too quickly, but when he also turned Denayer’s second chance, Jorrit Croon was allowed to make the decisive. He scored, covered his eyes and was knocked over by his euphoric teammates.
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Hockey players Orange after blistering shoot-outs against Belgium to European Championship final | Other sports
Source link Hockey players Orange after blistering shoot-outs against Belgium to European Championship final | Other sports