Today the European Championships for men and women start in Mönchengladbach, Germany. Tomorrow, at 1:15 PM and 2:30 PM, the Orange teams will play their first games . Will they manage to get through to the finals on August 26 and 27? The stakes are high: the winners not only receive a gold medal, but also an Olympic ticket. We look ahead with a number of well-known hockey faces. Today we close with none other than former international Maartje Paumen, currently assistant coach at Tilburg.
Who will take the titles?
‘Orange will win with the women. They have so many qualities, radiate freshness and a lot of fun and play energetically and offensively. The difference in quality with the other teams is simply too great.’
‘I like that Belgium is getting closer and closer in terms of level. I myself played for years under their national coach Raoul Ehren. Great to see how their game has been improving ever since and how his style can be recognized in it. From a defensive point of view, he sets up a good structure to attack at speed from there. That is paying off. You can also see it in the results: the number of goals difference in the matches against the Netherlands is getting smaller and smaller. They just lack the experience and the qualities to really put the Orange on the rack.’
And who is on the highest podium among the men?
‘I hope the Netherlands too, although the competition is fierce. Under Jeroen Delmée, the men play more power hockey: from fitness and speed. Just like with the women, it splashes fresh. Perhaps a factor is that many young players want to prove themselves. That is why I also like that someone like Duco Telgenkamp has been selected on the basis of his performance, even though he is still young and inexperienced. I wish this group the gold medal.’
‘I don’t attach much to the results of these kinds of competitions. Such a preparation time is always a separate period, in which it is mainly about developing individuals. Only once the selection is known does the focus go completely to the team and putting the finishing touches. The question is which country succeeds best in this.’
Which Orange players will excel next week?
‘As far as I’m concerned, Xan de Waard is by far the best player in the Netherlands, or even in the world. She can do anything with the ball: she is fast, technically and tactically very strong and takes the Orange in tow as captain. In addition, Felice Albers is life-threatening for the opponents at speed. Furthermore, Frédérique Matla has not had an easy year, but she undoubtedly scores a number of goals. She has the unique quality to be there when necessary.’
‘With the men I expect a lot from Thijs van Dam, because of his speed and great actions. Just like him, Thierry Brinkman has risen within the new formation. Thierry also scores easily.’
Which of the foreign teams do you keep a close eye on?
‘In any case, the four players who will play for Tilburg next season: Abigail Ray, Louise Versatel, Emma Puvrez and Ayeisha McFerran. In addition, Charlotte Englebert stands out with her speed, technique and actions towards the circle.’
I am also curious about the young players among the men. I haven’t seen much of them in action yet and I think it’s great that Michel van den Heuvel dares to opt for internationally inexperienced hockey players, just like Delmée.’
Are you going to watch?
‘Certainly. I even got the opportunity to go to Mönchengladbach, but with two young children at home and all kinds of other appointments, that became too big an undertaking. So it will just be at home on the couch, preferably with the whole family.’
Finally, what is your best European Championship memory?
‘In 2011 we also played a European Championship in Mönchengladbach. Before that we had had some mental sessions with the team. In it we made, among other things, a drawing on which we reflected how we saw ourselves as a team. It included a lightning bolt: as a symbol of our power .’
‘With a relatively new group we reached the final and beat Germany. Even before the game was over, all hell broke loose: the rain poured down from the sky and then there was also a thunderstorm. That was of course very symbolic and made the gold extra beautiful.’