Amstelveen’s Wagener Stadium set for mouthwatering final four matches
Following six days of outstanding women’s and men’s action at the Rabo EuroHockey Championships 2017, which is currently taking place at the newly renovated Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, Netherlands, a mouth-watering line-up for the competition semi-finals has been revealed.
In the women’s semi-finals, which take place on Thursday 24th August, Germany will face Belgium while home favourites Netherlands will take on reigning European champions England. The men’s semi-finals mirror the women’s, with Germany versus Belgium and Netherlands versus England being played on Friday 25th August.
With only the top two teams in each pool qualifying for the title matches, there was no shortage of drama in the race for the competition semi-finals. In the women’s competition, the Netherlands proved themselves to be the team to beat by storming to three consecutive wins and claim a first place in Pool A, showing exactly why they are the number one team in the FIH Hero World Rankings. Attacking star Lidewij Welten has been in inspired form for the host nation, helping her side to victories over Spain (3-1), Belgium (1-0) and Czech Republic (10-0).
While the Dutch have clearly marked themselves as favourites for the title, their semi-final meeting against reigning champions England - who finished second in Pool B - will be anything but straight forward. The team captained by Alex Danson have recorded numerous significant results against the Dutch in recent years, with their shoot-out victory in the final of the 2015 competition in London being one of the most significant. The Netherlands will not need reminding that the England team contains many of the players who were part of the Great Britain team that denied them Olympic gold at Rio 2016. It promises to be a fascinating match.
England recorded two wins out of three in Pool B, defeating Ireland and Scotland. However, a narrow 1-0 defeat to Germany thanks to a solitary strike from Cecile Pieper proved costly, with the team coached by Jamilon Mülders deservedly taking top spot with three wins from three. Die Danas have been in superb form at the event, and will fancy their chances of adding a third European title to the ones they collected in 2007 and 2013. However, with two wins out of three and suffering the narrowest of defeats against the Netherlands, Belgium’s Red Panthers - Germany's opponents in the semi-finals - have shown already in this event that they are not a team to be taken lightly. As well as being determined to win their first ever European championship, Belgium are also the only team in the semi-finals that has not already booked their ticket to next year’s Hockey World Cup in London, something that a competition victory at the Rabo EuroHockey Championships 2017 would guarantee.
The men’s event has been equally gripping, with the Netherlands and Germany topping the respective pools. The Dutch finished top of the pile in Pool A, although that was only assured on the final day thanks to a 6-0 victory over Austria which moved them ahead of Belgium on goal-difference. Belgium’s Red Lions had started the final day of pool action as favourites to finish in top spot, especially after a sensational, Sebastien Dockier-inspired 5-0 victory over Netherlands earlier in the week. However, the Belgians suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Spain on the final day, opening the door to a Dutch side who willingly accepted the invitation and claimed the result they needed to set up a semi-final meeting against Pool B runners up England.
Bobby Crutchley’s England team fought back from a goal down to defeat Ireland 2-1 in a winner-takes-all contest on the final day of pool action, confirming their place in the competition semi-finals but finishing second in the pool to a Germany side that have looked impressive in Amstelveen. Following their 1-1 draw against Ireland in their opening match, Die Honamas recorded wins against England (4-3) and Poland (7-3) to finish top of Pool B and set up a semi-final meeting with Belgium - who recently defeated them 6-1 in the final of the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg - on Friday.
Interestingly, all four semi-finalists at the Euros have already qualified for the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 via the Hockey World League route. This has proven to be excellent news for Pakistan, who are now assured of a place at next year’s global showpiece. Under FIH regulations, the team that wins its continental qualifier automatically qualifies for the World Cup. As Germany, England, Netherlands and Belgium have already achieved World Cup qualification thanks to top five finishes in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals, the World Cup ticket goes to the highest placed finisher from the Hockey World League Semi-Finals that has not already achieved World Cup qualification. Pakistan are the higher ranked of the two seventh place finishers from the Hockey World League Semi-Final events that took place in London and Johannesburg, with 16th ranked France next in line for that all-important World Cup ticket.
To find out more about the Rabo EuroHockey Championships 2017 event, please visit the official website by clicking here.
The European Hockey Federation (EHF) recently announced that all matches from the Rabo EuroHockey Championships 2017 will be live streamed on eurohockeytv.org/ (EHTV), an exciting new streaming platform created in partnership with Sportradar. Some games at the Rabo EuroHockey Championships will be GEO blocked due to broadcast arrangements in those territories. For full details regarding the broadcast of the event, click here.