Dazzling Dutch double up against Belgium in Antwerp

Netherlands’ Pien Dicke (34) controls the ball ahead of Belgium’s Pauline Leclef (25) and Justine Rasir (28).

FIH Hockey Pro League

The national teams of the Netherlands enjoyed a sensational FIH Hockey Pro League away day in Antwerp, with both the women and the men taking victories over hosts Belgium at the Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein on Sunday, the day when the Dutch women and Belgium men were officially crowned League champions.

The Netherlands women marked their second successive FIH Hockey Pro League title by securing a 3-0 triumph over a Red Panthers side that gave a very good account of itself against the top ranked team in world hockey.

The Dutch took a 1-0 lead into half time thanks to a 9th minute goal from Marloes Keetels after excellent build-up play from Frederique Matla, but the Belgians – now coached by Raoul Ehren, the Dutchman who guided Den Bosch women to incredible success both in the Netherlands and Europe – were very much in the contest throughout the opening two quarters. However, the reigning World and European champions were utterly dominant in the third quarter, with Matla’s penalty stroke and a fierce half-volley from Caia van Maasakker putting the result beyond all doubt.

“I think the first quarter was actually quite good and the second quarter a bit less, but the second half was really good,” said Netherlands’ Malou Pheninckx, who was named Player of the Match. “I think we improved during the game and played really well.”

When asked about if she feels her team are ready for the upcoming European Championships on home soil in Amstelveen, Pheninckx said: “I think there is still some steps to make, but I think we are in good shape already. We are really looking forward to it.”

Belgium captain Michelle Struijk said: “We are a little bit disappointed, but I think we still did some good things. We can learn a lot from this game, so it is disappointment but also, it’s okay. We started really well, had some chances and played some good hockey, so those things are for sure good.”

Netherlands’ Pirmin Blaak (26) scrambles to make a save and preserve the shutout against Belgium.

In the men’s match, the Netherlands produced a high-quality display to overpower the reigning World, European and FIH Hockey Pro League champions on their own patch, with Dutch attacker Thierry Brinkman being at the heart of the action. The result gives the Netherlands a huge boost in confidence ahead of the European championships, which the country will host in Amstelveen from 4-12 June.

Brinkman provided assists for the opening two goals, creating a tap-in for Roel Bovendeert in the 18th minute before a wonderful exchange between Brinkman and Mirco Pruijser allowed the latter to put the Dutch into a 2-0 lead at half time. Three minutes after Seve van Ass had scored the Netherlands’ third goal through a penalty corner, Brinkman put the result beyond all doubt when he fired home from close range after fine work from Jeroen Hertzberger.

“I think we had a good day,” Player of the Match Brinkman said. “It is just one game, so it was a good day for us and maybe they did not play their best game. But we are happy with the win, of course. This was our first game after a long period playing with our clubs, so it’s good that we scored four goals against maybe the best team in the world.”

Reflecting on the defeat, Belgium captain Thomas Briels said, “It was our first really big game so we were really excited, and it didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. For us, it’s feet on the ground and we learned a lot of lessons today. We have a lot of work to do. We can analyze this game, but I think we need to be sharper and play at 100 percent or else we will lose every game. It was not sharp enough today.”

The last remaining games of this season’s FIH Hockey Pro League will be the already confirmed double confrontation between Australia and New Zealand on 26-27 June, in Perth, Australia.

FIH Hockey Pro League
Sunday 30 May 2021 – Antwerp (BEL)

Belgium 0, Netherlands 3
Player of the Match: Malou Pheninckx (NED)
Umpires: Laurine Delforge (BEL), Celine Martin-Schmets (BEL) and Coen van Bunge (NED – video)

Belgium 0, Netherlands 4
Player of the Match: Thierry Brinkman (NED)
Umpires: Coen van Bunge (NED), Jonas van’t Hek (NED) and Laurine Delforge (BEL – video)