13.07.2015, London – England Hockey are publishing a number of previews in the lead up to the Unibet EuroHockey Championships, London. Would be remiss not to consider a Double Dutch Delight?
When the stadium turns orange, you just know you are in for a hockey treat. Stylish, fast, exciting, passionate… and just a little bit quirky. The Netherlands personify the power and beauty of hockey, and they have a host of titles to prove it. We speak to two of their number, Lidewij Welten and Robbert Kemperman.
Lidewij was recently voted player of the tournament at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp, while Robbert was player of the tournament at the 2013 EuroHockey Championships.
Both players spoke of their love for playing hockey in London. For Robbert it brings back special memories of the 2012 Olympics. “The Olympics is the most beautiful tournament in the world, it’s kind of a magic feeling. The semi-final against Great Britain is my best memory. The atmosphere was amazing, we won 9-2, something that won’t happen often in semi finals.”
Lidewij has equally fond memories: “Oooh where do I start? It was so amazing. Our family and friends could come and watch, the atmosphere was out of this world. That feeling you get when the final whistle goes in an orange-filled stadium…. I can’t even describe it. “
Both Netherlands men and women’s teams have already qualified for Rio 2016, the prize on offer to the winners of the Unibet EuroHockey Championships. Will this mean they bring a developmental squad or will be less motivated to win? The thought is obviously anathema to Lidewij: “We always want to perform to our best and win. We are extra motivated to win here, because last time we didn’t win it. (Netherlands were beaten by England in the semi-final).”
Right now, the Dutch women are enjoying virtual world domination in hockey. They are ranked number one in the world and their win at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals was just the latest title to add to the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. But the Champions Trophy that took place in December 2014 did reveal a chink in the armour as they finished third behind Argentina and Australia.
“I think a dip in form is pretty normal if you build up towards such a big tournament,” said Lidewij. “After the World Cup we had some changes. I think so far we are doing pretty well and are in good form.”
“Of course there are areas we are still improving, I think we could still be more efficient in the attacking circle. And also in defence we need to keep being alert so we don’t give away anything.”
Ominously for their rivals, she adds: “We showed in Antwerp what we can do but we’re not there yet. There is so much more in this team and we want to build towards Rio. Every time we play we are taking a new step towards our top level.”
It is fair to say that the Netherlands men have been a little in the shadow of their female counterparts in the past few years. While all that the women touch turns to gold, the men are habitual silver medallists. They finished second in both the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup and are current number two team behind Australia.
Robbert Kemperman is certain that the medal colour will change in London. “We have reached the final several times, this year we mean to win it. We know there will be strong competition, but the last couple of years we showed how we can play and what we are capable of. We have one of the best penalty corner strikers in Mink van der Weerden and Jaap Stockmann is one of the best goalies in the world. We have players who can make the difference all over the pitch. We will go for the gold medal.”
And if it rains in London, be prepared to see the quirky side of the Netherlands team revealed. “When we won in 2011 Mönchengladbach it poured down with rain just as the final whistle blew,” says Lidewij. “The whistle went and boooom the rain just came down. We just started going crazy and sliding all over the pitch, we can be a little weird like that.”
Source: England Hockey / check full details on www.eurohockey2015.co.uk
Photograph: Lidewij wasn’t joking about the weather in Mönchengladbach! ( Frank Uijlenbroek (c))