By Rod Gilmour in Amsterdam
How to silence – initially – 10,000 Oranje? Play forceful, serene hockey with incisive interchanges.
Belgium, 2-0 up inside 30 minutes, did just that and with some aplomb as they sent a disbelieving Wagener Stadium into rare lapses of the cacophony which had emblazoned the last 10 days of these fine Championships.
And then came the stirring 23-minute fightback. Back came the roars as Holland swept up field, fed by turnovers and preying on the Belgium goal.
Second half goals from Robert Kemperman, Mink van der Weerden and a Mirco Pruijser double finished the frenzy as Holland retained their title in thrilling style with a whirlwind-like 4-2 victory here.
After a fourth place in Rio, this wasn’t on the cards in front of an expectant nation and nearly 24 hours after the women’s success.
But Belgium, looking for their first major championship success, were worthy leaders.
— hockey.nl (@hockey_nl) August 27, 2017
Tom Boon slotted home a ninth minute penalty corner before Cedric Charlier scored a sublime second with the faintest of stick touches with his back to goal.
Pockets of Belgium support erupted; the Rotterdam hockey ultras were silenced.
Minute by minute, however, space opened for the Dutch. Belgium were offering turnover ball with increasing regularity and Max Caldas’ side had no problem racing into the Belgium circle.
They were soon level through Kemperman’s quite blistering strike and the abrasive, brilliant, goal-hungry Pruijser who bundled home after a 46th minute penalty corner strike which had initially come off the bar.
Two goals in eight minutes – followed by a ripped van der Weerden corner strike and a Pruijser tap in with 20 seconds left. What a dazzling turnaround.
The Olympic silver medallists had played their part. But this was quite some 30 minutes of hockey whch won the day for the Dutch – a result no-one would’ve been placing money on with the best sportsbooks reviewed.
A fitting end to a passionate Championships.