Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Hockey5s World Cup: Netherlands stroll to gold, Oman take plaudits

Muscat — Who knew Hockey5s could be so cagey? While the Netherlands dominated the first shortened format World Cup in an uninspiring final, the highlight was undoubtedly reserved for hosts Oman, who sparked memorable scenes in winning bronze on Wednesday night.

Ze sloegen hun slag’ they call it in Dutch — taking advantage of opportunities at the right time — in a title showdown which failed to ignite, despite a goal apiece in the opening two minutes. This was certainly in contrast to one of the earlier placing matches which saw a pinball 10-9 finish (13 goals in eight minutes) in the USA and Nigeria match.

Yannick van der Drift scored two of the Oranje’s opening three goals, while only Akhimullah Anuar’s eliminating skills on the right seemed to get the better of the Dutch.

But Malaysia briefly made a game of it at 3-2 down, hitting the post twice as they threatened a late rally. 

However the Dutch shut up shop with possession play and stout defensive work and then scored twice with four minutes left to win the inaugural title. Moreover, it could be the last, with the Dutch having already signalled an end to Oranje international participation at indoor and 5s.

It was left to Jamie van Aart’s whipped forehand from range to end the first eight days in the life of a tournament the FIH is set to promote to the hilt in future years.

Meanwhile, there was unbridled joy in the earlier game when Oman held off Poland 3-2 to win a first global medal. 

Twice the Poles came from behind and held possession for much of the closing moments as the Omanis – who didn’t have to rely on top scorer Khalid Al Shaaibi this time – held on.

The final hooter saw wild scenes of celebration, with one of the Omani coaches sprinting around the 5s pitch, another doing a Usain Bolt lightning pose, the team dancing to the local troupe in the stands before their coach, Siegfried Aikman, was tossed in the air.

Meanwhile, four Polish players were visibly in tears on the sidelines as the Omanis celebrated. The sport of 5s, for these nations, meant a lot.

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