Koen Bijen had a large share in the Dutch Pro League victory over Spain (3-2) on Friday . In the sweltering Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Center in London, the attacker was good for two of the three Dutch hits, his first international goals since the World Cup in India at the beginning of this year. ‘The feeling when you’ve scored… that’s so good.’
The duel with Spain was a classic case of a two-faced match. Where the game of the Orange looked syrupy in the English heat in the first thirty minutes, much more energy flowed through the team after the break. In that phase, the men of national coach Jeroen Delmée turned a 0-1 eight score into a 3-1 lead, only to collect the 3-2 just before the end of the game. That Spanish goal came too late to seriously threaten the fifth Orange victory in this Pro League season.
‘We had to get used to the circumstances’, Koen Bijen explains the enormous contrast between the first and second half. ‘The field was stiff, much slower than the field we played on in Eindhoven last week. For example, our passing pace was too slow. That went much better after rest. Then we also regularly succeeded in breaking the press of Spain by quickly moving the ball from side to side.’
Winning on energy
The fact that the Orange booked its fourth victory in the fifth Pro League match of this crazy busy summer can best be labelled as special. Because the composition of Delmée’s team was completely different from last week in Eindhoven when a total of eight players experienced their baptism of fire in the Dutch national team. In London, eight experienced core players from Kampong and Bloemendaal returned to the team, but there were also enough players who only played a few international matches.
Bijen: ‘Many boys only played their first international match today since the World Cup in January. Then you have to look for each other again. The connections are not immediately there yet. But eventually it will. The main thing is that the energy is good. You have to win games on that. If everyone performs their defensive task with the right energy, then the attack will come naturally. I am not surprised that we get twelve points from the last five games, but it is also unexpected in a way. It proves once again that we have many good hockey players.’
Finally scored again
For Bijen, the 3-2 victory over Spain also gave personal satisfaction. For the first time since the World Cup quarter-final against South Korea (5-1), the van den Bosch striker scored again in the Orange. That was not possible five international matches in a row, although he did contribute during last week’s Pro League block in Eindhoven in the form of a great assist to Duco Telgenkamp in the 5-2 win over Australia. Was Bees relieved with his hits? The 28-time international would be lying if he claimed otherwise.
“I didn’t get confused, but it’s nice for a striker to score. I actually created that 2-1 myself, by taking the ball on my stick and throwing it hard in front of the goal. I do that often, also to get a penalty corner like this. With a bit of luck, the ball fell through the keeper. At 3-1 there was the connection with Jasper [Brinkman], who flattened the ball perfectly into the circle so that I could tip it in. That feeling after you’ve scored a goal, that’s just very nice. Scoring is addictive’, Bijen admits.
But still, why didn’t that work in Eindhoven? ‘In the three matches I played last week, I had other guys around me, mostly newcomers. I played the same role there as always, but you notice that you are less attuned to each other. But I don’t focus on goals, I have to focus on my defensive task, taking away balls. Everything starts with that.’
After 36 international matches under Delmée, Bijen’s report figures are perfectly fine. The striker played in 28 matches and was directly involved in 24 goals. After his two goals against Spain, he has fifteen goals and also provided nine assists. In Delmée’s Oranje, only penalty corner gun Jip Janssen was more often involved in a goal (twenty goals, five assists).
‘These are nice statistics, numbers that don’t lie’, Bijen responds. “I play with confidence and I know what I can do for the team. But those stats don’t play in my head when I’m on the field. Then I focus on my task. These are busy weeks, with many competitions in a short period of time and also under difficult conditions. It’s a sprinting game , much more than in the big league. I secretly like it. I’m a worker, they used to call me a mile eater for a reason. I feel fit, let myself be treated well and take a lot of rest. So let me go for one hundred percent.’