A rampant Netherlands men’s side romped to a 6-1 victory over Belgium in Antwerp, keeping their hopes of securing back-to-back FIH Hockey Pro League titles very much alive. The victory takes the Dutch to 32 points, meaning Great Britain can no longer win the league as they have the same number of points but fewer wins and no matches remaining. The Dutch can still add to their points tally with one more match to come. Despite the defeat, Belgium can still sneak to the top, if they win their final two matches – one again Spain and the other a rematch against the Netherlands. That all makes for a thrilling final few days of action ahead in Antwerp. Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the Dutch women ground out a hard-fought 2-0 victory over a gritty Belgian side. While the Netherlands have already secured the women’s title, the Belgians remain in the hunt for a medal position with three matches remaining.
(Women’s) Belgium vs Netherlands 0-2
Having experienced little resistance in their recent matches on their march to the FIH Hockey Pro League title, the Netherlands came up against a fiercely determined Belgian side in Antwerp. A hard-fought encounter ensued and had Dutch keeper Josine Koning not been in such fine form, things could certainly have gone the other way. Koning was brought into action on numerous occasions to keep her side in the match as the Belgians applied plenty of pressure.
While the Dutch may not have been at their confident best, they still created several opportunities of their own, finally finding the breakthrough in the fourth quarter. Yibbi Jansen’s initial drag off a penalty corner was saved but the bouncing rebound off the keeper’s pads was then buried in the back of the net by captain Xan de Waard. A Dutch counterattack in the final minute resulted in the prolific Frédérique Matla drilling in a second with 12 seconds left of the clock to make absolutely sure of the 2-0 victory.
Josine Koning was named Player of the Match and said: “I think it was a tough game, a lot of opportunities on both sides. I think we had more opportunities against us than we would normally have – they had some chances. I think that does say something. We weren’t as sharp as we should’ve been… but even the tough games we still have to win and work even harder than the opponent.”
(Men’s) Belgium vs Netherlands 1-6
The home side didn’t look nearly as threatening as they did in their drubbing of Spain a day earlier. Instead, it was the Dutch who came out firing. Before the first two minutes were up, they had scored their first goal, thanks to a Koen Bijen strike. 10 minutes later Thijs van Dam worked his way into the circle and ensured the ball reached Tjep Hoedemakers who tapped it in.
The Netherlands added a third in the second quarter when Terrance Pieters passed the ball to Steijn van Heijningen who produced a perfectly placed strike to extend their lead.
The home team’s woes were compounded at the start of the third quarter when Jip Janssen dragged in the Dutch’s fourth goal off a penalty corner while Floris Wortelboer added a fifth in the final period.
Alex Hendrickx’s goal from a penalty stroke provided scant consolation for the Belgians and the Antwerp crowd. To make matters worse, Thierry Brinkman added one last spectacular team goal to the enormous Dutch total in the final minute to wrap up a hugely important 6-1 win.
Tjep Hoedemakers was named Player of the Match and said: “This was one of the best games I’ve played with the Dutch team. We knew that we had to get a result today and Belgium is, of course, a tough team to play against. But I think with this much energy that we showed on the pitch, you’re not going to lose so it was good.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 1 July 2023
Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein – Antwerp (BEL)
Result: Women’s Match 68
Belgium 0-2 Netherlands
Player of the Game: Josine Koning (NED)
Umpires: Irene Presenqui (ARG), Alison Keogh (IRL), Michiel Otten (NED-video)
Result: Men’s Match 68
Belgium 1-6 Netherlands
Player of the Game: Tjep Hoedemakers (NED)
Umpires: Martin Madden (SCO), Sarah Wilson (SCO), Alison Keogh (IRL-video)