Sunday, July 25, 2021

Euro Hockey: Netherlands men lift title to break Germany hearts and resolve

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Rod Gilmour
The Hockey Paper's Editor. First covered international hockey at the 2010 Commonwealth Games - no better than a full house watching India play England - and has reported for the Daily Telegraph and other major newspapers ever since. Co-founded THP in 2016.

Holland had no time, quite literally, for Germany’s steely resolve for a second match at this enthralling EuroHockey Championships as, amid a febrile atmosphere generated by the maximum 3,000 Oranje support to end a golden battle royale, Max Caldas’ side turned the fortunes and broke their continental rivals’ rollercoaster tournament in quite dramatic style to win a third European Cup in four editions.

A moment of dazzling skill through his legs from Constantin Staib had, for all the world, looked set to hand Germany their first title in eight years. Yet this EuroHockey has conjured some wondrous moments over the last 10 days and when the hosts were given one last-gasp penalty corner with nine seconds left, the final chapter of the men’s event had yet to be etched.

After first being turned down a penalty stroke request, Jip Janssen stepped up to send a calf high flick off Alex Stadler’s pads and into the net on the hooter to spark euphoric scenes at the Wagener Stadium.

The late leveller – 2-2 after 60 minutes – galvanised the Dutch as Pirmin Blaak then held firm for the second shoot-out in a row to see off two German attempts before Thijs van Dam raised the roof in Amsterdam to seal a 4-1 shoot-out win.

Blaak was exceptional in the Dutch goal, while Christopher Ruhr stood out once again as he ran the German lines during a frenetic and expressive final of unerring quality.

This final will be remembered for the last five minutes and the shoot-out which followed, so for the record Ruhr had given Germany the lead via a penalty stroke in the 21st minute following a blistering first quarter before Robert Kemperman levelled for the hosts.

Germany and Netherlands in action PIC: EHF/Worldsportpics

The Germans had pressed Holland for circle entries all game and after more midfield marshalling from Ruhr, the Dutch defence was tested to the hilt as Staib found himself with back to goal inside the D. Running towards the baseline away from Blaak’s net, in a split second he had put Germany three minutes from the title with a backstick jab between his legs and beyond Blaak.

The Dutch stopper was then hauled off a minute later but Staib’s creative magic had seemingly left Germany in Euro heaven.

But, with nine seconds left, the Dutch won a corner with Germany unable to review. Jeroen Hertzberger called a review for a possible stroke but when the corner stood, Janssen stepped up with aplomb.

After watching the action through his towel, Blaak, who had called himself ‘super stupid’ after a moment of madness in the Pool stages, came back and turned the Wagener golden for the Dutch. Simply brilliant.

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Final Standings

1. Netherlands 
2. Germany
3. Belgium
4. England
5. Spain
6. France
7. Wales
8. Russia

Player of the Tournament
Pau Quemada (ESP)

Goalkeeper of the Tournament
Pirmin Blaak (NED)

Top scorers
Tom Boon (BEL), Sam Ward (ENG) – 6

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