Dutch defence stands firm to win third consecutive EuroHockey title

The last day of the EuroHockey Championships 2021 was a warm and exciting one. Both the bronze and golden matches in de Women’s Tournament were played in front of a magnificent crowd. When the last whistle was blown, the Dutch women had won their third consecutive EuroHockey title.

Final: Netherlands – Germany 2-0

The Netherlands fought off a huge German challenge to win their third successive women’s EuroHockey Championship title, making it 11 victories in 15 editions of the continent’s top competition.

It came courtesy of a goal in each half with Marloes Keetels and Frédérique Matla put them over the line but the Germans played their part in a quality final encounter. The Dutch showed their intent in the opening seconds when Matla got through and had a powerful reverse-stick shot well saved by the excellent Julia Sonntag.

The goalkeeper was also to the rescue before the end of the first quarter with a double save from Matla’s corner shot and a follow-up from Eva de Goede. And the goal came in the 18th minute with a super corner move, Caia van Maasakker slipping a perfect pass back to corner injector Marloes Keetels – in between the reach of the post woman and the goalie – who got low to direct into the backboard.

But any semblance that this would be an easy affair were soon dispelled as Germany went on to have the best of the remainder of the second quarter but Sonja Zimmerman was unable to get by the orange defences from a trio of corners. Into the second half, an intense battle saw the Dutch lead but German eke out the greater chances. Jette Fleschütz was crowded out when well placed while the key opening came just before the three quarter time break as Charlotte Stapenhorst dug the ball out from under Josine Koning but Lisa Altenburg could not force the chance home with van Maasakker clearning off the line.

Zimmerman was twice more denied by Koning from a couple of corners before the Dutch killed off the game. They thought they had a vital second from Felice Albers bouncing shot but Sonntag somehow stuck out her knee to deflect wide. Matla duly got the crucial goal when she tore forward to capitalise on a defensive error; her pressure saw the ball fall to Keetels and she returned the ball to the striker. Matla duly applied an audacious lob over Sonntag on her backhand which dropped over the line – video confirmed she used the front face of the stick and the hosts were out of reach.

“It was a tough battle; both sides were really pushing it, a lot of running,” said final MVP Keetels in the wake of the contest. “The Germans did very well in their build-up play and it made it an exciting game to watch but we are glad to be European champions once again.

“It was hockey at the highest level and we really challenged each other. It’s also really fun to play against the best and we bring out the best in each other.” She also hailed the crowd for playing their part in making this a memorable occasion after such a long with silent sidelines. “It’s just awesome. After the corona year, we did a lot without the audience. Now, we fell how it is to have them and it is amazing. I cannot put it in words but it helps make it even more often.” After the final, Belgium goalkeeper Elena Sotgiu was named the goalkeeper of the tournament; Ambre Ballenghien was the talent of the tournament while goal of the tournament went to Ireland’s Deirdre Duke for her sliding effort against England on Friday. Matla was the event’s top scorer with eight goals while Eva de Goede was the player of the tournament.

Netherlands – Germany 2-0 (1-0)

18′ 1-0 Marloes Keetels (PC)

56′ 2-0 Frédérique Matla (FG)


Bronze Medal match: Belgium – Spain 3-1 

Belgium won their third women’s EuroHockey Championship medal as they produced the goods to beat Spain 3-1 in the bronze match at the Wagener Stadium, adding to silver in 2017 and bronze in 2013.

They were good value for the success, edging the main statistics and picking off goals at key times to move out of range of the red sticks. Stephanie Vanden Borre has been a crucial figure this week and she was involved in many of their big moments from the back. She drew a brilliant stick save from Maria Ruiz from her side’s second corner of the game while her pin-point overheard found Ambre Ballenghien mid-circle whose control and early shot drew another excellent Ruiz stop.

The opening goal arrived in the 22nd minute when Barbara Nelen went along from a quick free on the left sideline as the defence back-pedalled. From a narrow angle, she spotted a gap behind Ruiz and duly flicked in on the run. It took Spain a long time to settle but they gradually improved as the half went on and, from their first corner, Maria Lopez forced Elodie Picard into her first save of the game.

The Red Panthers, though, continued the second half in the ascendancy and doubled their advantage in the 42nd minute. It was a dramatic goal, Alix Gerniers wheeling away to the left before lifting a cross into the middle on her backhand; Abi Raye put out a stick at the same time as a Spanish defender and judge to have got the crucial touch as the ball flew in off the crossbar.

In reply, Spain found their mojo and started to pick up corners; Lola Riera’s drag was batted away by Elena Sotgiu before Spain got on the board in the 46th minute. It came from Alicia Magaz’s powerful run around the right and her pull-back was turned in by Lucia Jimenez. Belgium, however, restored their two-goal advantage within a minute as Nelen and Raye combined to find Ballenghien. She was reeling away from goal but was still able to strike smoothly off her back foot and hit the net. Down the closing stretch, Spain won a trio of corners but Belgium were able to keep all three out and maintain their lead to the final whistle.

“I think we fought for our life and we deserved this medal,” Nelen said afterwards. “I was waiting for the goalkeeper to lie down and just threw it in; I am just super proud and super happy and can’t have a better day than this.“We saw Spain were able to come back but we showed we can respond well and get another goal! If you look at the team now, the future looks bright. For five of them, it was their first tournament. They played so well and I couldn’t be prouder.”

Belgium – Spain 3-1 (1-0)

21’ 1-0 Barbara Nelen (FG)

42’ 2-0 Abi Raye (FG)

46’ 2-1 Lucia Jimenez (FG)

47’ 3-1 Ambre Ballenghien (FG)

Umpires: M Meister (GER), A Keogh (IRL)