The Orange Women started their hunt for a gold medal in Tokyo with a 5-1 victory over India. At first they had a hard time and they let the Indians equalize, but in the end the difference in quality was too big. For attacker Felice Albers, her Olympic debut with two goals was a fairy tale.
The omens were soon good for the Dutch national team in the Oi Hockey Stadium. Under a dark sky – in Tokyo the sun sets at 7 p.m. – Felice Albers found Frédérique Matla’s arms after six minutes of hockey. It was a cross from Margot van Geffen’s back line that tipped Albers in at the far post. A 1-0 lead for the Orange, with Lidewij Welten and Xan de Waard returning from their injuries.
India equalizer a blunder from King
However, the Dutch national team faced a setback before half-time. While the thoughts of the hockey followers might have gone out to a trouble-free win, India national coach Sjoerd Marijne turned out to have built a fit and technically adept team, which occasionally created quite a bit of danger.
The shot that captain Rani fired after 28 minutes of hockey was towards the middle of the goal, but goalkeeper Josine Koning missed completely. A rare blunder by the goalie of Den Bosch, which meant the equalizer (1-1). When Koning took off her helmet, the look on her face suggested that she herself did not understand how she could have conceded a goal so easily. The 1-1 also came as a surprise for Marijne – former national coach of Orange. He was reviewing images on his screen when Rani scored.
Becoming an Olympic champion in Tokyo is the mission that the Orange Ladies have had for years and for which all lights are in principle also green, but they still have to do it for a while. Even after winning the World Cup (2018), three European Championships (2017, 2019, 2021), two Pro Leagues (2020, 2021), the Champions Trophy (2018) and the Hockey World League (2017), winning a golden don’t put security. One match in which things go wrong, one moment of inattention, can also be the difference for the towering favorite between being an Olympic champion or not.
Maria Verschoor’s new look. Photo: Koen Suyko
Margot van Geffen’s 2-1
Although the Netherlands was better than India throughout the first half and also created more chances, a goal was not scored after the 1-1. The penalty corner was not yet with Alyson Annan’s team. First there were three attempts by Caia van Maasakker that failed to find their way to the net. Goalkeeper Savita saved twice, once with her glove and once with her clog. When Frédérique Matla was chosen for the fourth penalty corner, Den Bosch’s phenomenon pushed the ball onto the post. It was not easy for the Netherlands.
There was still plenty of time, so the Orange Ladies didn’t panic. To surprise the Indians, they opted for a variant at the first penalty corner after the break. That turned out to be a good choice. Caia van Maasakker pretended to push, but replaced Margot van Geffen, who tipped in (2-1). An important role for Van Geffen, who also gave the cross to Albers in the 1-0.
Albers’ second goal
Then the Netherlands played itself to a safe margin within a few minutes. When Pien Sanders came in over the back line, it was again Felice Albers who hit the mark (3-1), her second goal in her debut match at the Olympic Games. Two minutes later, Frédérique Matla fired in the 4-1 with her backhand. The attack machine of the Netherlands was gaining steam.
Eight minutes before the end, Caia van Maasakker also filled up with confidence by pushing the Netherlands’ sixth penalty corner (5-1). With that, the Orange Ladies still booked a great victory after the 1-1 just before half-time and they proved not to get restless when things go wrong. A quality that can come in handy in their hunt for the Olympic title.
Netherlands v India 5-1 (1-1)
06. Felice Albers 1-0
28. Rani 1-1
33. Margot van Geffen (sc) 2-1
43. Felice Albers 3-1
45. Frédérique Matla 4-1
52 Caia van Maasakker (sc) 5-1