The Orange Ladies have closed the eventful year 2022 in a great mood. The number 1 in the world defeated arch-rival Argentina 0-2 at home in the FIH Pro League for the second time within a week. The Orange is already the leader of the Pro League with four resounding victories in a row.
Radiant centrepiece afterwards was Freeke Moes, who scored against Argentina and took a penalty. The smile splashed off the faces of the Orange Ladies in Santiago del Estero, the atmosphere was great. They enjoyed.
That is quite a contrast to the gloomy mood a year ago. At the time, the Orange had just become the Olympic champion in Tokyo, but the dissatisfaction with the performance climate within the team largely overshadowed that gold medal. The KNHB had ordered an independent investigation and the Orange players talked to each other more than they stood together on the hockey field.
2022 started with a bang due to the departure of national coach Alyson Annan, who did not wish to conform to the association’s approach to the crisis. Assistant Jamilon Mülders was willing to do the honors by the then technical director Jeroen Bijl (he was later also killed in the affair). First temporarily and eventually up to and including the World Cup that was played in Spain and the Netherlands in the summer of 2022.
Under that smile, Van Ass is working on a clear mission: he doesn’t just want to win gold at the Games in Paris 2024. He wants to do that with beautiful and offensive hockey. The widely acclaimed goal of world player of the year Felice Albers in the World Cup final should become the rule rather than the exception, if it is up to Van Ass.
Anyone who saw the Dutch team in action last week during the Pro League mini-tournament against Argentina and Great Britain can only conclude that Van Ass’s hand is already starting to become visible. The Orange showed wonderful tiki-taka hockey at times, with Marente Barentsen’s goal in the second game against GB as the highlight.
With Barentsen, one of the most striking players of the Orange squad was also immediately named during the Argentina trip. The midfielder made her debut in Orange more than a year ago under Annan. The World Cup came too early for her last summer, but now she is emphatically knocking on the door for a permanent place in the selection. This also applies to Joosje Burg, who, unlike Barentsen, started against Argentina on Saturday evening.
Burg played another strong game in Santiago del Estero, where it was a lot cooler at 22 degrees compared to the rest of the week. The stands were again completely filled with enthusiastic Argentinian hockey fans, who saw that Las Leonas started a lot more defensively than in the first meeting between the two teams on Wednesday.
That meant that the number of chances in the first quarter was scarce. The biggest was in the first quarter for Marijn Veen, who appeared free in front of the Argentinian goal after a pass from Felice Albers. Unlike in the duel with Great Britain – when the striker scored twice – Veen now pushed the ball wide of the goal.
Argentina got its first chance at the start of the second quarter. Striker Albertarrio, however, found goalie Josine Koning in her way during her goal attempt. King played again because Anne Veenendaal suffers from minor knee problems. Koning saw another shot from Albertarrio disappear into the side net, but that told the story of the first half.
Van Ass was therefore not satisfied at halftime, he told the cameras of the FIH. Barely back at his dug-out, his team led 0-1. Burg rushed over the back line, served Freeke Moes, who pushed the ball backwards against the board.
The goal was the starting signal for the Orange to take Argentina in a firm grip. The attacks waved over the home team, but with the necessary art and flying, the deficit was limited to a hit in the third quarter.
The Orange was also supreme in the last quarter. It was waiting for the 0-2. That came after a good run by Albers. She served Moes who seemed to score, but her bet ended up on an Argentinian leg. penalty ball. Yibbi Jansen did not let that opportunity be taken away: 0-2, her 51st and last goal of 2022.
With the four victories in his bag, Van Ass will happily board the plane to South Africa in January where he can further mold his team with the Orange ladies during the winter training. Judging by the progress the coach has already made in his first months, the new stars knocking on the door, the hockey enthusiast will look forward to the Orange in 2023.