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With 50 days until the Women's Hockey World League Final in New Zealand, Dutch star Caia van Maasakker admits her team fears no one ahead of season finale in Auckland.
van Maasakker is relishing the challenge of playing the world's top teams in Auckland Photo: FIH/Getty Images
Caia van Maasakker is one of the best penalty corner specialists in the world. The fact that she plays for the number one ranked side in the world adds to an aura of invincibility that surrounds the Dutch defender whenever she strides onto the pitch.
Away from the turf, van Maasakker is engaging and funny but you still detect the characteristics of a born winner when she says that she is looking forward immensely to the forthcoming Hockey World League Final in Auckland, and that currently no other team holds any fear for her or her colleagues.
Off the back of a dominating performance at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Brussels, Belgium and an equally strong win at the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships in August, that is no real surprise. It may however cause the other seven nations in Auckland some concern to learn that van Maasakker feels the team is getting stronger by the day.
She said: "We started with a new group before Brussels and we have been growing together as a group since then. We have been working hard at getting everyone travelling in the same direction. We have also been developing a real belief in each other.
"We had a week off after Brussels and then, of course, we were preparing for the EuroHockey Championships. Then we started training for three days every week as well as our club training, but it is really fun."
The Netherlands are travelling to Australia first to play some warm-up matches and to acclimatise to a different time zone, but van Maasakker is certain her team will be ready to face all-comers.
"Out in New Zealand we will be up against some of the best teams in the world, but most teams are in their post-Olympic year and still building. Of course we always have great matches against Argentina but I am also looking forward to playing the USA and New Zealand because we don’t play them so often. Germany and England, we know better."
When asked if there was any player who she just didn’t like playing against, in true champion's style she laughed the question off. "There is no one player who I think 'Oh-no, she is going to get past me'. As you play on the international stage for longer, you get to know the players and how they will challenge you but that is all part of the fun. Argentina's Delfina Merino, for example, she is a great player and I know her well because we play at our club together, but I see her as a challenge not a fear and that is really cool."
van Maasakker admits taking on Argentina's Delfina Merino will be a challenge Photo: WSP/Stanislas Brochier
The Dutch defender says the Hockey World League Finals hold a special place in players’ hearts. It is a great opportunity for the best teams in the world to play against each other and assess where they stand. For her, the qualities that she feels puts the Dutch ahead of many of their rivals is the ethos of hard-work and working for each other - that is at the core of the team. This is something that has always been part of the 'Ojanje' mentality and it is something that new players quickly learn.
Her final quote served to underline the commitment levels of this team of world beaters. She concluded: "I have never been to New Zealand and I am really looking forward to it but this is first, foremost and totally about the hockey and making sure that we are focused and playing the very best we can."
To see the current World and European champions live in action, get your tickets for the Women's Hockey World League Final now by clicking here.