Monchengladbach — In the end, Dutch coach Paul van Ass’ pre-match claims came to fruition in the most devastating fashion as all-conquering Netherlands scored seven second-half goals to first power, then stroll into the women’s EuroHockey final here against an increasingly wilting England.
Van Ass had poured scorn on this England unit, admitting they lacked technical skills, while the longer the game remained 0-0, his side would “sometimes play hockey against ourselves. If we take the lead quickly, then they have to give away spaces and we blow over it. Then it’s done.”
England did hold the score at 0-0 for the opening 30 minutes and were good value for it, with the Dutch train delayed. Yet, in a flip on Van Ass’ prediction, the Dutch did finally score and quickly too in the third quarter as their technical skills kicked into life.
Four goals in 12 third quarter minutes opened the floodgates, Yibbi Jansen’s hat-trick then confirming her world-class status and Frederique Matla too, with her eye for goal and another double.
In a tight opening, England held the better possession, defence and offered more creativity. Meanwhile the Dutch, uncharacteristically, lost the ball moving forward several times.
Before this game, Matla, playing in a mask here after a training ground injury, had been noted as the deadliest ever scorer in the women’s game. In the last six years and 117 matches, she had notched 86 goals. Her team-mates, meanwhile, were fluffing chances; Marijn Veen and Felice Albers both unable to exploit chances in the circle. Was this one 60 minutes which would go against the Dutch?
But the Oranje were beginning to find their range in the second quarter with their telepathic passing into the circle. Maria Verschoor found Sabbie Heesh’s pads for their first shot on goal. Meanwhile, England found their best interchange when Flora Peel won a turnover, before a flashing slap across the D saw Jansen tap away from Hannah Martin.
With four minutes left in the half, the Dutch won a first PC. Jansen’s drag was dealt with, before the final shot came, predictably, from the stick of Matla. Receiving the ball on the stroke spot, she hit down and flashed wide of Heesh’s post.
When Grace Balsdon’s opening aerial to start the second-half was collected, the Dutch gallivanted up field; a second PC soon after saw Matla fail to control her 3D skills.
An Izzy Petter foul on Albers then handed more opportunities. Matla spurned the first before Jansen decided enough was enough and flicked through Heesh’s legs.
The Netherlands’ second was England’s own doing. Peel lost inside the 23m, the Oranje advanced into the circle, Hollie Pearne-Webb failed to trap and Pien Dicke lifted home brilliantly.
A first English PC with the next attack then saw Olivia Hamilton’s drag evade two team-mate sticks. A Dutch third seemed the most likely outcome and Marijn Veen carved an opening with a flashing reverse, gloved away by Heesh.
Little matter. Jansen came to the fore again, her flick ripped into the net giving Sophie Hamilton no chance of any stick save. Less than three minutes later, on the hooter, space became all too evident. Matla opened her shoulders with no English defender around her and lashed past Heesh. A devastating quarter from the passing masters.
A fifth came early in the final quarter with ease through Veen, via Albers, with England yet to test Josine Koning. TV cameras panned to crestfallen coach David Ralph, his head bent over into his arms.
Dutch gloss was gleaned two minutes from time when Jansen flicked her hat-trick, Sophie’s sister Olivia this time the hapless defender unable to halt another howitzer. A seventh underpinned England’s early evening, Matla tapping in from Xan de Waard’s circle desire as England’s defence wilted. At the other end, Tess Howard was kept quiet all game.
An eighth, matching the score in the 2019 semi-final, was even on the cards before the hooter confirmed the Oranje into a fifth successive final and leaving England to somehow rally from this and play for bronze.