With their 4-2 win over Belgium today, Netherlands men finish their season four campaign on 35 points, making them champions of the FIH Hockey Pro League 2022/23 season. With this win, Netherlands become the first team in the men’s competition to win a second title, successfully defending their first title, won in the competition last year.
Netherlands’ campaign began on 13 December 2022 in Santiago del Estero, Argentina in a mini-tournament that featured Great Britain, Argentina and Netherlands. They got off to a slow start picking up 2 points from their opening three matches, with shoot-out losses to Great Britain and Argentina, and one outright loss to GB. They picked up all 3 points from their final match of the mini-tournament against Argentina to finally kick-start their campaign.
The next time we saw them in action in the FIH Hockey Pro League was in June 2023, at home in Eindhoven. This mini-tournament featuring Netherlands, Australia and India, allowed Netherlands to build on their bronze medal victory at the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023, which took place in January. With a team featuring plenty of young players, new to the national set-up, Netherlands registered two impressive wins over India. They did suffer their largest home loss in a 7-2 defeat to Australia, but they avenged that loss a couple of days later by getting the better of the Kookaburras in a 5-2 win.
Next Netherlands travelled to London for two games against Spain, who came into those games off the back of 8 games unbeaten in the competition. Netherlands though had all the momentum, as they took 5 points from the two games against the Spaniards with one outright and one shoot-out win.
They picked up an impressive 10 out of the possible 12 points in another home mini-tournament in Amsterdam, this time facing World Champions Germany and a New Zealand team that had nothing to lose after being relegated at the start of the mini-tournament. These points, along with Great Britain dropping points at home in their final three games, put Netherlands in the drivers seat for the title, with only the mighty Belgium standing in their way at the Antwerp mini-tournament.
The first match against Belgium showed the giant strides the young Dutch team had made in the recent months, as they dispatched the Olympic champions by a 6-1 margin, which was their largest margin for victory over their European rivals since 2009. Belgium picked up all 6 points against Spain in their other set of matches setting up a grand finale where a win for either team would make them champions!
Netherlands once again proved their championship mettle, registering a fantastic win over Belgium in the all-important final game of the campaign with Thijs van Dam, Jip Janssen, Theirry Brinkman and Boris Burkhardt all getting on the scoreboard. But the defining performance in the game came from the star man in goal, Pirmin Blaak, who made some huge saves to preserve his team’s lead throughout the game.
In true Dutch fashion, the team never relied too heavily on any of their players and there were multiple contributions by players on the offensive end that helped lift them to the title. Thierry Brinkman top scored with 7 goals, followed by Jip Janssen with 6, and Koen Bijen and Tjep Hoedemakers scoring 4 goals apiece. Relive some of their best moments, including their 5-2 win over Australia and 6-1 win over Belgium by clicking here.