Belgium qualified for the European Championship final on Thursday evening, thanks to a 1-0 win over Germany. The Red Panthers are preparing for Saturday’s confrontation with the Netherlands (2.45 p.m.). The statements that the Dutch national coach Paul van Ass made about Belgium this week have gone down the wrong way with them.
On the rest day before the semi-final against England (7-0 win), Van Ass gave his opinion on Belgium on hockey.nl . Raoul Ehren’s team failed to impress him in the group stage. “It will be Germany that goes to the final,” he predicted. ‘I have yet to see it with Belgium. I think that Belgium is written too much up. Their game image against us is always the same: hold back for a long time. That’s all they do.’
Van Ass also said that his opinion of the Red Panthers could change if they beat Germany in the semi-finals. ‘But I still have to see how they do it. Whether they really win against Germany, or whether Germany loses against itself. Let them first beat Germany in a way that I take my hat off to. And then they also have to dare to play that type of game against us. Only then can it become an interesting match. But what if they sit back and do what they always do to us? Then it will be 2-0 for us again.’
The Dutch are arrogant people. We are dear Belgians. Alex Gerniers
His words took on a life of their own. Belgian media quickly picked them up. The Latest News and the Nieuwsblad , among others, wrote about it. TV channel VTM also reported it. Moreover, Van Ass’s statements spread like wildfire among the Belgian selection. After the semi-final against Germany, the quotes were immediately discussed in the mixed zone, the place where the interviews take place.
Belgian player Alix Gerniers said: ‘The Dutch are arrogant people. We are dear Belgians. If people are happy by acting arrogant, then they should do it nicely. I am proud to be Belgian. We know that the Netherlands is better on paper, but I expect that we can make the Netherlands doubt. We are going 100 percent for the title.’
Stéphanie Vanden Borre, smiling: ‘Apparently we have not won against Germany, but Germany has lost against itself.’ Dan: “We talked about it in the team. It’s his words. Words that we Belgians would never use. I would never speak negatively or badly about my opponent. It would be the same if I were to say that Germany played very badly, which is not true at all.’
Captain Barbara Nelen: ‘If he wants to talk about us, he should do so. However, he is only the coach. It is not the Dutch players who said it. I’m sorry he says things like that. He had expected Germany to be in the final. But he was wrong.’
If you come up with Ireland, then you haven’t followed women’s hockey in recent years Raoul Ehren
National coach Raoul Ehren refers to statements made by Van Ass in the AD . Van Ass cites examples from the past. For example, Ireland won silver at the World Cup in 2018 and Great Britain defeated the Netherlands in the Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. ‘These countries have peaked once and maybe Belgium can do the same. But structurally? No, I don’t see that happening,’ said Van Ass.
Ehren: ‘That’s his opinion. If he thinks so, he should say so. But if you come up with Ireland, then you haven’t followed women’s hockey in recent years.’
Ehren has to agree with Van Ass that Belgium has played very defensively against the Netherlands in the past three matches. ‘For the time being, Paul is right, because the Netherlands keeps beating us. We know that we are not yet as far as Orange. If we were to play full pressure against the Netherlands, we would go off. But we are going to make a nice plan for the final. I do have some things in my head. Moreover: we are a team in development, aren’t we? Apparently Paul isn’t too worried about us yet, but he will.’