By The Hockey Paper
Dutch captain Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel has upped the ante ahead of tonight’s eagerly-anticipated World Cup showdown with England by claiming that the hosts can be beaten 5-0 and that they play like “headless chickens” due to a lack of game plan.
‘DvdH’ also said that the Olympic champions had won nothing since the Rio Games and had been unimpressed watching England’s four games from her hotel room ahead of the quarter-final at the Olympic Park.
The 31-year-old told hockey.nl at a Dutch media conference: “It’s a little ‘chicken without the head’ hockey. They get the ball and run hard forward.
“They are fit and have a quick changeover, but otherwise there is no thought behind it. I am not impressed by them.”
In the last three years, the powerhouse hockey nation have lost two major finals to England and GB, at the 2015 EuroHockey Championships at the same venue in London and at the Rio Olympics. Since then, Holland regained their European title and have been unbeaten on the global scene since Rio.
“In comparison with the Games, I find the difference between England and us now greater than it was then,” she said.
“Can it be 5-0? Yes, it could be. I do not think it’s going to be a breeze, but I know we’re going to win.
“Even in the English press they still talk about that game at the Olympics. But much has changed in two years. England have won no prize since then and we have and their team is no longer comparable.”
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Dirkse van den Heuvel racked up her 200th international match for Holland during this World Cup with the eye-opening stat that she has only lost 13 times during that time.
And their 26 goals in three games, to England’s five in four, has left DvdH in no doubt as to who is favourite tonight.
She said: “We were 7-0 against South Korea in one half. They were just 1-0.”
So do those two major final defeats still weigh heavily on Holland? The amiable Dutch captain is certainly not afraid to shoot from the hip and given that the Dutch are so far ahead of the pack at this World Cup, she has claims too.
Yet she didn’t stop there. She also believes that Holland, the current European and world champions, will this time stop goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, who is also a team-mate of DvdH at SCHC, in normal time and so stave off the potential for more shoot-out agony.
“This time she will not be our stumbling block,” she added. “In our last games we can almost blow the ball in front of the open goal. We are not going to shoot at goal once or twice, but much more often. Maddie really does not stop all those balls.”
England are chasing only their third semi-final berth in the tournament’s history. But coach Danny Kerry says that if they can stop key players, then the game is wide open.
“In Lidewij Welten they have an ability to hurt you with their powerful running and their stick skills,” said Kerry.
“Frederique Matla is also a goal-scoring machine. You need to look after those players as well as Eva De Goede, who sits in deep midfield and is one of the leading players in the world. As long as we look after these players, we will be well in the fight.
“They will feel confident and there is no expectation on us to win. Holland have been smashing everybody,” he said.
“I think they will feel player-for-player that they should win, but at the back of their minds they will know that they lost in the Euros final in 2015, lost in Rio.
Meanwhile Ellie Rayer, England’s youngest player at 21, is relishing the experience of playing Holland.
She debuted at a major tournament last summer at the Wagener Stadium in Amsterdam and fully knows what to expect tonight.
She said: “The Dutch have been a force in world hockey for a number of years now so huge respect to them. But we’re not going to get bogged down with all their hockey history.
“We can’t worry about what they are going to do. We are 18 individuals in the team and everyone knows what their strengths are.”
The last word was left for Lidewij Welten, the dangerous attacker, who said that playing in front of 10,000 will be a breeze.
She said: “I love to play in a stadium with supporters who are all against us. We train hard for this type of competition.”
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