Double Dutch delight as Netherlands produce remarkable comeback

It was double Dutch delight as the Netherlands’ men matched their female counterparts to beat Belgian in the final 4-2, coming from two goals down.

Men’s final: Belgium 2 Netherlands 4 (2-0)

The Netherlands produced a remarkable second half comeback to deny Belgium the men’s Rabo EuroHockey Nations title as they came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 in front of a raucous home Wagener Stadium crowd.

It was a brilliant, flowing contest from start to finish with the Dutch having some magic moments in the opening stages, Robbert Kemperman, Mirco Pruijser and Bjorn Kellerman combining.

Cedric Charlier claimed a touch to a right wing cross that hit the backboard only for the video review to cancel out a Belgian goal but Tom Boon’s eighth minute drag-flick did open the scoring.

It briefly quietened the capacity 10,000 crowd, the majority clad in orange. And they were almost in for a second before the first quarter was up when Victor Wegnez wriggled away from some tackles but his pass was just off course to Boon.

The Dutch started their corner count in the second quarter with two Mink van der Weerden drags charged down by the runners while a Billy Bakker cross caused danger, Vincent Vanasch cooled things down. Two more Dutch corners were dealt with.

Belgium made it 2-0 in the 28th minute from a breathtaking move, travelling up the pitch to Simon Gougnard along the right sideline. His powerful cross was slightly behind Cedric Charlier but he was able to apply the perfect touch around his legs for an imposing half-time lead.

The Netherlands needed something special to get them back in the tie and it arrived seven minutes into the second half when Sander de Wijn’s diagonal overhead to pick out Kemperman. He controlled and then unleashed a vicious volley.

“We felt the tide was turning,” van Ass said of that special goal. “We definitely felt that energy, especially at the penalty corner after the [opening] Kemperman goal. The crowd was exploding and we were doing something good and we took that energy in a positive way. We felt really strong, our legs and lungs were great in the second half and we had that little bit extra than the Belgians.”

The fifth Dutch corner went wide but from their sixth set piece in the 45th minute, they had their equaliser. Van der Weerden’s drag-flick hit the underside of the bar and back into play; Jorrit Croon spectacularly kept the ball alive with a star jump and Pruijser was on hand to scramble in at the second attempt.

Belgium came back, Sebastien Dockier drawing a stop from Sam van der Ven. But the comeback was complete in the 53rd minute when de Wijn was knocked over by Manu Stockbroekx to concede a corner a yellow card.

One corner was blocked but a second one followed from which van der Weerden finally had his reward, dragging into the right corner for 3-2.

(c) Frank Uijlenbroek

Pruijser then completed the victory in the last minute as the Belgians withdrew their goalkeeper in favour of kicking back. The Amsterdam man exchanged passes with Thierry Brinkman before sliding into the open goal and a 4-2 win with 17 seconds to go.

Sander de Wijn added it was a special performance: “Most of the people at half-time wouldn’t give us any chance, especially after our 5-0 defeat in the group stage. We needed a moment to reopen the game and, in the end, amazing.

“It was a great season after a disappointing Olympics. We’ve started something new, kept faith in ourselves and structure and proved we can handle the pressure. Especially for the young guys, their first major tournament, there was a lot of pressure on them and they performed really well.”

On the flip side, Felix Denayer said it was a “very tough day” for his Red Lions who have raised their expectation levels.

“The first five minutes, the Dutch guys came out of the start blocks very well. Luckily, we survived that and grew into the game, scoring the first and the second and I thought we were going to build on it. On the ball, we probably weren’t good enough. Credit to the Dutch guys who came back.

“The evolution has been that before we would be happy to be in the final. Now, with the Rio silver was a big relief but from there on, we have an ambitious group and I think we showed we can beat the top of the world with our wins over Netherlands in the pool and Germany in the semi-finals. Today, we saw we have some steps still to make.”

Belgium – Netherlands
8’ Tom Boon 1-0
28’ Cedric Charlier 2-0
37’ Robbert Kemperman 2-1
45’ Mirco Pruijser 2-2
51’ Mink van der Weerden 2-3
60’ Mirco Pruijser 2-4

Umpires: F Vazquez (ESP), A Kearns (AUS)