There was a distinct carnival atmosphere as Netherlands and Germany took to the pitch at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen for the final match of the the final day of action at the Women’s EuroHockey Championship 2021.
And, for the majority of the 3,000 fans that were lucky enough to be allowed into the stadium, it was the perfect outcome as the Netherlands extended their domination of this event to make it three victories in the past three editions. The Oranje’s 2-0 victory over Germany was a repeat of the 2019 EuroHockey Championship final, although the score line doesn't fully reflect the intensity and sheer quality of both teams in this game.
Of course, as hosts, Netherlands, along with fourth placed Spain, have already booked their berths at the 2022 FIH Women’s World Cup but for Alyson Annan and her squad, this final was yet another opportunity to demonstrate the squad’s extraordinary capacity to operate at the highest level with unshakeable consistency. This time, the focus was largely on the defence as it withstood wave after wave of German attack.
Certainly Germany were no pushover in this contest and Head Coach Xavier Reckinger will be taking a close look at his team’s repertoire of penalty corner routines as Germany failed to take advantage of a string of seven penalty corners in almost as many minutes. At this stage, the Netherlands were 1-0 up courtesy of a penalty corner from Marloes Keetels. The sustained German pressure was dealt with by a very composed Dutch defence as they chased down one penalty corner after another.
The third quarter saw Germany really ramp up the pressure on the world number one side but the Dutch defence was magnificent as they dampened everything the German attack threw at them. Josine Koning was outstanding in the Dutch goal but the commitment of her defence matched her own awareness and agility.
Germany’s best chance fell to Lisa Altenburg but the outstretched stick of Sanne Koolen somehow blocked the path from the striker to the goal.
The result was put beyond doubt in the 56th minute when Frederique Matla showed extraordinary awareness and skill to flip the ball over the head of Germany’s Julia Sonntag after a quick break had caught the German team high up the field.
Speaking after the game, Player of the Match Marloes Keetels said: “That was tough battle as both sides were pushing hard. The Germans played a hard, running game and we really enjoyed the challenge of playing a side of such quality.
“The crowd was brilliant. We have been a long time without crowds and now it is hard to describe how it feels to be playing in front of crowds again – it was awesome.”
In the bronze medal match earlier in the day, Belgium defeated Spain by a 3-1 scoreline, emphasising the progress the Red Panthers are making under the new coaching team headed by Raoul Ehrens.
The first half saw Belgium dominate the match, with incisive passing and a high rate of possession that kept the Spanish under constant pressure to chase the ball. Belgium’s persistent probing of the Spanish defence was rewarded in the 21st minute when captain Barbara Nelen was able to squeeze the ball past Maria Ruiz from an acute angle to give her side a 1-0 lead.
The second half was also mostly one-way traffic, with the Spanish struggling to find a passing game. The second Belgium goal was scored by Abi Raye, who deflected a shoulder high ball past Ruiz.
Lucia Jimenez gave the Red Sticks hope when she magicked a goal from a melee in the Belgium circle but the impressive Ambre Ballenghien put the game beyond doubt when she smashed home the third goal for Belgium at the start of the fourth quarter.
In their role as joint hosts of the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup 2022, Netherlands and Spain already had guaranteed spots, which means qualification from the EuroHockey Championship 2021 extends to the first five placed teams. Germany will be joined by Belgium and England.
The remaining teams – Ireland, Italy and Scotland – will have a further opportunity to qualify for the World Cup via the European World Cup Qualifying Tournament. This event will being together those three teams, plus the teams ranked 1-5 in EuroHockey II, which takes place later this year.
Player of the Tournament
Eve de Goede (NED)
Goalkeeper of the Tournament
Elena Sotgui (BEL)
U21 Player of the Tournament
Ambre Ballenghien (BEL)
Frederique Matla (NED) - 8Back