When the reporter apologizes that Josine Koning has to wait a while because of another interview, the Orange goalkeeper immediately responds: ‘That’s not bad, but it will be taken from my vacation.’ Koning says it with a smile after the Pro League game against Argentina (1-1) , but when we speak to her, she openly admits that she could use every minute of vacation.
“We played a lot of games in the second half of the season. I can already look forward to not having to deal with hockey for a while. It is really my intention to stick to it’, says Koning.
She is going to make a city trip, but only has a week to do so. With barely five weeks left until the start of the World Cup in Spain in his own country, the defending champion has to work hard with the preparation. While many other countries, like Argentina, have been preparing full-time for the global final tournament with their entire selection for some time, Dutch national coach Jamilon Mülders still has to adjust and measure to get his players together.
A large part of his top players still participated against Argentina, but this weekend in London against England, various internationals from the final teams SCHC and Den Bosch will be given time off. Just like Koning, the goalie of the Brabant national champion, they must report again next Tuesday.
World Cup fire
From that moment on, the Orange squad moves in a bubble towards the start of the World Cup, which starts on July 1 and where the Netherlands will play the opening game on July 2 in the Wagener Stadium. “I have to say that when I arrived at the Orange squad, I was not fully involved with the World Cup,” Koning acknowledges. “But these matches with Argentina in this atmosphere with all those people who come for us, have helped me to fuel the World Cup fire.”
Koning looks at the other side of the Union field in Nijmegen where hundreds of children are clamoring for a photo or autograph of their Orange heroes. The closing post must also believe in that. Her popularity is great in Nijmegen. That is not surprising, because in the two duels with the number two in the world she made many good saves and played a leading role in the shoot-outs.
On Sunday she saw Victoria Granatto looming in front of her within two minutes. The handy attacker tipped the ball at the first post, but the Bossche goalkeeper saved, albeit with some effort. Also in the remainder of the game, the skilled South American players frequently appeared dangerously in front of Koning’s goal, who only had to be unable to answer with a tipped corner by Maria Granatto. Argentina made the Orange pretty difficult for sixty minutes.
King was not surprised by that. Argentina has already had a whole hockey campaign through Europe in recent weeks, while these were only our first two games. So you can’t expect us to win here anytime soon. They were good, but I’m convinced we can do five steps better. This does not alter the fact that this is certainly a team that we will encounter at the World Cup.’
When it comes to shoot-outs between the Orange and Argentina and Koning is in goal, there will still be some fear about a good outcome for the South American formation. King was in charge of Las Leonas twice in the shoot-outs on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday she took two out of four, on Sunday she came out on top four times.
Koning visibly enjoyed the shoot-out series: ‘I clearly notice an upward trend in myself. I stand with more confidence in the target at the shoot-outs. I have nothing to lose either, they have to make it. I only have to keep two, because we always make four.’
The Orange squad did that against Argentina on Saturday, but on Sunday it was more difficult and a sudden death had to be involved to collect the bonus point. King had enjoyed the second shoot-outs in two days against Argentina. ‘A second shoot-out like this is always a fun game’, says Koning. ‘I saw the Argentina players laughing too. I kind of knew what they were going to do. They were about the same girls as yesterday. I noticed that they had analyzed me, which made them do other things. But I was always close by. With the last one they did the same thing again and then I got it. I like that.’