Monchengladbach — The two best men’s sides in the world on rankings. Two sides who had conquered the last two Euros. This heavyweight match was nervy, edgy and settled by rare Belgium errors as world No 1 Netherlands reached their fourth EuroHockey final in five editions.
For so long, Belgium had this semi-final under control. Yet it took a trio of mistimed stick mistakes, first as the Dutch equalised and then with three minutes left, to settle this searing men’s semi-final, as Duco Telgenkamp scored the winner and left Alex Hendrickx to thud the ground in disgust.
A piercing, simple move from Victor Wegnez in the second minute from inside the 23m found Cedric Charlier on the right and his slap was connected with a diving deflection from Denayer as he beat his marker. It had summed up their play, with quick and incisive ball-carrying interchanges.
Belgium had five first-half PCs, a brace from Hendrickx cleared by post men and a third padded away by Maurits Visser. From the next attack, Denayer forced a clean glove away from Visser.
Belgium hadn’t won their last two Euro encounters and the Dutch equalised when Wegnez lost control of a bouncing back pass. As last man, the ball spun out into the gleeful path of Jonas de Geus, who raced into the circle and beat Visser, who could only glove his ripping reverse.
Now for the Dutch big game mentality, which has let them down in major tournaments over the years. Four minutes later, Thierry Brinkmann got the last touch on a counter.
An a la carte of breakdowns, turnovers and counters was now being served up in this third quarter. When Tijmen Reyengna attempted a drag pass out inside his 23m, it was brilliantly cut out by Arno van Dessel. In a flash, Nico de Kerpel had the ball on the baseline, his flying pass into the keeper’s path turned in by Reyenga frantically backtracking. 2-2
Fine margins, they say in hockey. With eight minutes left, Visser raced out of his circle to just swipe away in time from an advancing William Ghislain. Then, with just over three minutes left, a cross into the Red Lions circle saw Wegnez miss the trap. It bobbled to Hendrickx who twice was unable to get the ball under control. Telgenkamp tucked skillfully under Vincent Vanasch and couldn’t believe his luck as he wheeled away in delight.
They will now also be vying for their fourth title in five EuroHockeys.