The Dutch team showed the first slight signs of recovery against Canada on Tuesday evening at the so far poor Olympic hockey tournament in Tokyo. The team of national coach Max Caldas again did not play great, but nevertheless won 4-2 against the number ten in the world. Because of the victory, the Orange is almost certain of a place in the quarterfinals.
The way the players and technical staff celebrated the victory together said everything about the relief in the Dutch camp. Just like after the win against South Africa, there was no joy, but everyone seemed happy that this hurdle had been overcome. The team is definitely not yet in the desired Olympic form, but after three matches it has six points and can cherish the hope that it will still run this tournament. Stranger things have happened in international hockey.
There are still plenty of worries for Caldas. Defensively, it was again not at all convincing on Tuesday what the Orange showed. In addition, Caldas already had to rely on his reserves Justen Blok and Roel Bovendeert, who replaced the injured Sander de Wijn and Seve van Ass. Caldas must have been shocked when Jorrit Croon limped to the side in the second quarter. However, the creative midfielder was able to return to the field after a short treatment in the dressing room.
That was good news for the Orange squad, which already started the third group match on the North Pitch of the Oi Hockey Stadium on Tuesday with the necessary pressure. On Saturday there was the defeat and the 12-man incident against the Belgians, on Sunday evening the Orange squad blamed itself with poor play and a 3-0 deficit against South Africa. The result was good against the number fourteen in the world (5-3 win), but the players left the South Pitch grumbling and with a mental blow.
With Blok and Bovendeert, the Orange seemed to have processed that disappointment well in the initial phase. The team started enthusiastically and immediately accelerated against Canada with Floris van Son (of the first division team AMVJ) and Scott Tupper (former Schaerweijde) in the ranks. Within a minute this resulted in Billy Bakker’s 1-0. The captain got the ball on the head circle and was not put in the way. His backhand wasn’t great, but goalie Antoni Kindler was kind enough to tap the ball into his own corner.
Bakker cheered no less and seemed to give the go-ahead for a goal fest, where goal thief Thierry Brinkman is only too happy to be a guest. Four minutes later, the attacker, who is one of the few in good shape, produced a free backhand that Kindler only saw when the ball came back from the board: 2-0.
That will finally be a carefree evening, Caldas must have thought. But the happy faces in the Dutch camp soon got involved. The Netherlands started to play more sloppily and the hitherto hopeless Canada was given every opportunity to come back into the game.
To his own surprise, James Wallace was able to walk into the Dutch circle unhindered after ten minutes. First Lars Balk and then Joep de Mol intervened half-heartedly so that Wallace had little difficulty in tapping the 2-1 in the short corner. An unnecessary goal, which immediately resulted in a circle discussion on the Orange side.
There the players will undoubtedly have said to each other that they really have nothing to fear from this Canada if they even touch their normal level. But the Orange failed to do that in the remainder of the first half. The game remained stiff and again the number of wrong passes and stopping errors, just like against South Africa, was remarkably large.
Where is the team that left the European Championship brimming with self-confidence with a gold medal and arrived in Tokyo with the now infamous corona flight? Little is left of the invincibility that the team radiated at the time. Caldas also became visibly despondent at times. His voice boomed frequently in discontent throughout the Oi Hockey Stadium.
Despite the mediocre game, the victory against Canada was not in danger. The Netherlands eventually won 4-2. Joep de Mol scored the 3-1 – his first goal after 92 international matches – and Mirco Pruyser the 4-2, in between Mark Pearson made the 3-2 from a penalty corner variant. It was already the eighth goal in three matches for the Orange, which really has to defend better in the last two group matches.
Then the Caldas team awaits opponents of a different calibre. On Thursday, the Netherlands will meet Great Britain, Friday the squatter against Germany is on the program. Two matches that not only determine who the Netherlands will play against in the quarterfinals, but in which the Orange Men have to make much more progress to keep the golden Olympic dream alive.
Netherlands – Canada 4-2 (2-1)
‘1 Billy Bakker 1-0
‘4 Thierry Brinkman 2-0
’10 Jamie Wallace 2-1
’50 Joep de Mol 3-1
’53 Mark Pearson (sc) 3-2
’60 Mirco Pruyser 4-2