Eight-time world champion The Netherlands has qualified for the denouement of the World Cup, which takes place in Terrassa, Spain. With a hard-fought 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals, the Orange squad knocked opponent Belgium out of the tournament in front of just under 10,000 supporters in the Wagener Stadium. Saturday’s opponent in the semi-final is the winner of Australia-Spain, the quarter-final to be played on Wednesday.
Amstelveen exploded after 59 minutes of hockey, when Belgium shot a penalty corner wide at 2-1, the last chance of the game. Everyone in the Wagener Stadium exploded and created an electrically charged atmosphere in the final minute of the quarterfinals. All supporters rose from their seats and treated Orange to deafening applause. When the horn sounded, a big party broke out in the stands.
At a score of 1-1, ten minutes after Belgium’s equalizer from a penalty corner, attacker Freeke Moes brought redemption to the Dutch national team in her 25th international match. The striker slalomed wonderfully into the circle through an army of Belgian sticks. From the back line, the Amsterdam striker shot the ball through the inside of the clog of the blundering keeper Aisling D’Hooghe into the goal: 2-1. For twelve minutes, the Orange Women then had to survive in the toughest game they played this world championship.
The ‘Holland, Holland’ sounded en masse at 7.30 pm from the full stands in the sold-out Wagener Stadium. The public instinctively felt that the Netherlands could use the support. Orange hockey played well this tournament, but not yet fantastic. It was not a matter of course that the Netherlands would just push the strong playing Belgium aside.
The defense has conceded a goal in every game so far, a rarity in recent seasons. Players for whom it normally seems as if the ball is sticking to their stick with glue, lost their ball too often this World Cup. The connection between the top players of the Dutch national team was sometimes there, but too often not.
Belgium played some strong matches this World Cup. Led by Raoul Ehren, the Belgian national team has undergone a rejuvenation treatment. Talents such as Charlotte Englebert (21), Ambre Ballenghien (21), Justine Rasir (20) and Hélène Brasseur (20) have given the team a quality injection. Especially the convincing way in which the Belgians outplayed poor Chile (5-0) was special to see, with the note of course that Chile was of course the lowest classified country of this World Cup.
Stuck penalty corner
Immediately from the exit, the Orange attacked. Midfielder Felice Albers, working on a strong world championship, showed himself with a flash. After small chances for Lidewij Welten and Frédérique Matla, she put the ball on a Belgian foot, which resulted in the first penalty corner of the match. For some reason, this World Cup is not yet on the head circle at the Orange. Until the quarterfinals, the Netherlands won 21 corners, of which only four were converted. Frédérique Matla, in particular, was not focused yet, with zero goals from eight attempts.
Besides Matla, Yibbi Jansen also reported on the circle edge. It was clear to see that Jansen is the first choice. The ball was played towards the midfielder of SCHC. Her drag push was hard, but across the ground and through the middle. The Belgian goalkeeper Elena Sotgiu saved with her foot.
The Belgian coat of arms of Vanden Borre
After a missed opportunity by Alix Gerniers, the Netherlands went in search of the lead with all their might. International Laurien Leurink, the assist queen of the Dutch national team, put her stick on the ground at the second post after two missed opportunities by Maria Verschoor. A pass from Eva de Goede tipped them in, just before the end of the first quarter: 1-0.
At first sight, scoring twice was a tough task for the Belgians. During the first minutes of the second quarter, the Netherlands decorated three penalty corners, but they were all missed. However, there came a phase when the Belgians became stronger. Orange did get the chance at 2-0. A shot by Laura Nunnink was saved by goalkeeper D’Hooghe. Striker Freeke Moes then volleyed the ball from the air almost into the goal, but again D’Hooghe got in the way.
After the 1-0, the Netherlands could blame itself for not looking enough for the 2-0. The whole of Amstelveen held its breath when Belgian attacker Charlotte Englebert took the first penalty corner for the Red Panthers. All eyes were on defender Stéphanie Vanden Borre (24), who made her debut in the national team eight years ago as a sixteen-year-old. For a long time she belonged to the gray middle bracket of international hockey, but now that she has 155 caps to her name, her sleep push is the greatest weapon of the Red Panthers. This world championship was the counter for her on six silver-plated penalty corners. This makes her co-top scorer of the World Cup.
Surprisingly, Belgium did not opt for a drag push from Vanden Borre, but played the ball on the incoming Alix Garniers. With a tip-in, Garniers found the tiny hole in the Dutch penalty corner defence. Halfway through the third quarter it was suddenly 1-1.
The minutes after that, the Netherlands had completely lost it. Only in the fourth quarter did the Orange pick up again. Attacker Freeke Moes detonated the Wagener Stadium after 48 minutes. From the back line, the Amsterdam striker shot the ball into the goal through the inside of goalkeeper D’Hooghe’s clog: 2-1.
Ten minutes before the end, the Wagener Stadium came to a standstill when the Belgians took their second penalty corner of the match. Again Vanden Borre played for the tip. The ball went up via a Belgian stick. It provided a great chance for the 2-2. But by Alix Gerniers the ball was tapped over the Dutch goal.
The final phase was blood-curdling. The clock ticked away and Moes was close to 3-1, but the ball hit the post. In the last two minutes, Belgium took two more penalty corners. But after Josine Koning saved Vanden Borre’s bet and then went wide of the rebound, a hurricane of cheer rose in Amstelveen at 9.04 pm.
Netherlands – Belgium 2-1 (1-0)
14. Laurien Leurink 1-0
38. Alix Garniers 1-1 (sc)
48. Freeke Moes 2-1