Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Kelly Jonker finished off wonderful team goals to lead the Netherlands to a ninth Rabo EuroHockey Championships title in front of a packed out and rocking Wagener Stadium.
Coach Alyson Annan said it was a superb reward for a team that has come together following the retirement of many global hockey superstars to form their own agenda.
“This is a new group, we started a few new things and I am proud of the girls. The way they performed is the game we want to play, very attacking an in control of the game. In front of 10,000 people, I am proud.
“Collectively, they are a team who performed exceptionally well. For the first time since I have been with this team, they have played a steady tournament. We haven’t had a game where we played poorly and the final we just played a little bit better than the previous matches.”
She also hailed the people that made it all happen over the last week with the final seeing yet another sold out crowd.
“As an Australian, coming to Holland as a player, it was always an extraordinary experience. The volunteers and the organisation have put together a fantastic tournament and we can’t thank them enough for what they have done for the team and the supporters. Everything was perfect.”
Kelly Jonker, scorer of the crucial second goal, agreed: “This is amazing. To win in our own stadium, in our own country. The audience was amazing all tournament. To finally win the European Championships is a dream come true.
On the Belgian side, Aisling d’Hooghe reflected on “an amazing week” for her country and team, winning their first female medal in the competition.
“We started as underdogs, coming back from two years without any official big tournament. To achieve such a big result is a beautiful present for us. We are one team on and off the field and that is how we achieve our goals.”
She was named goalkeeper of the tournament for a string of excellent displays.
“I definitely didn’t think I would win this prize. I am really happy but still more happy for the medal. I play sports because I like playing for a team, not individuals.”
From the outset, the Dutch were on the front foot, putting together wave after wave of attacks. Xan de Waard was the first to draw a big save from d’Hooghe. Jonker tipped wide with another chance before the Dutch provided a truly beautiful goal.
Lidewij Welten took on the chance from halfway, slipping the ball out to the right to Margot van Geffen who returned the ball to the centre where Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel got the perfect touch for 1-0.
Caia van Maasakker went close with a 14th minute corner while Maria Verschoor’s driving run earned another set piece but Ireen van den Assem hooked her shot over the bar.
De Waard also cut inside brilliantly to unleash a powerful reverse with d’Hooghe booting away with equal strength. Belgium were battling for every scrap, Louise Cavenaile and Aline Fobe throwing everything into their defensive effort while Barbara Nelen and Anouk Raes led their offensive attempts.
Two third quarter corners went without a final touch while Welten’s breathtaking run through the centre of the Belgian defence drew yet another sliding save from d’Hooghe.
The second goal was the clincher, coming 12 minutes from the end. Verschoor intercepted to kickstart a swift counter-attack, going through the sticks of Jonker and de Waard before van Geffen worked her way around the back down the right side. She picked out Jonker at the back post who juggled her shot, knocking in at the second attempt for a 2-0 lead.
For good measure, the Dutch grabbed a third from the penalty spot from van den Assem. It was a rough end for the Belgians though they can be delighted with their first ever European medal.
Belgium – Netherlands
12’ Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel 0-1
48’ Kelly Jonker 0-2
60′ Ireen van den Assem 0-3
Umpires: S Wilson (SCO), I Presenqui (ARG)
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images
photo Getty Images