The Oranje Heren have fueled the much-needed confidence in the direction of the upcoming world championship. After three mediocre performances for the Pro League in Argentina, the team of national coach Jeroen Delmée defeated the home team on Sunday night with a hard-fought victory: 2-4.
The Orange led 0-2, gave away that lead in a matter of minutes, but kept a cool head in a spectacular final phase, which finally won again. The relief and happiness could therefore be seen on their faces after the victory in Santiago del Estero.
That was understandable, because the mood in the Orange camp was quite low after disappointing innings against Argentina (2-2, loss shoot-outs) and Great Britain (3-0 loss and 1-1, loss shoot-outs) .
Delmée must also have had a weight lifted from his shoulders. Although the national coach knows that with only 27 days until the start of the Netherlands at the World Cup in India, he still has a challenge. Because although the Pro League is of course not a world championship and Argentina and Great Britain must be rated higher in advance than Malaysia, New Zealand and Chile, the opponents of the Orange in Group C, the self-confidence of the Orange team turned out to be fragile in Argentina.
That self-confidence, coupled with a huge chunk of energy, has been the strength of the Orangemen since Delmée took over from Max Caldas in September 2021 – after the failed Games in Tokyo. The Orange did not have a single setback until the duels in South America. Almost to their own surprise, the Oranje Heren even won the previous edition of the Pro League.
For Delmée – with 401 international matches poked and dazed in international hockey – that was no reason to walk next to his shoes. He tempered the enthusiasm, kept repeating that the game had to improve and said he still didn’t know how his team compares to the world top. After the Pro League duels, that may still not be entirely clear, but the native of Brabant has certainly become a lot wiser.
For example, he will be broadly satisfied with the defensive work of his team, although he must be annoyed by the sloppiness that still creeps in too often. The Orange also unnecessarily gave away opportunities against Argentina on Sunday night. Like with Toscani’s 2-1 in the fourth quarter, which came out of nowhere after a stumbling by Blok. And the 2-2 equalizer that was beaten by Lucas Martinez behind Maurits Visser shortly afterwards.
Delmée also has challenges further forward. The coach would like to create danger from a closed defense with quick changes. He also has the right players in his selection for that. When guys like Terrance Pieters, Tjep Hoedemakers and Thijs van Dam (did not play due to an injury) put the turbo on with room in front of them, they are unstoppable.
However, if that space is not available, the Netherlands will have a more difficult time. Then many eyes are on captain Thierry Brinkman, who almost always delivers since Delmée’s entrance. However, the opponents of Orange also know that. It’s up to Delmée to come up with a ruse.
The Orange tried that against Argentina by frequently handling the high ball over a great distance. That style of play gave the guests a strong start. After Tijmen Reyenga first created a danger, the first serious attempt on goal came in the name of Floris Wortelboer. However, his effort went just wide of the Argentinian goal.
Orange opened the gas tap even further. A goal was in the air, but two corners from Jasper Brinkman and a flat from Justen Blok were made harmless by the Argentines in time. While Thierry Brinkman (high) and Dennis Warmerdam (low) were unlucky that their tip went wide of the target.
The Netherlands was in good shape in terms of play, but again did not seem to score. Until the strong playing Reyenga just before the break, handsome Pieters servant. Kampong’s attacker scored very hard with the backhand: 0-1.
Supported by that lead, the Dutch were able to lean back a bit more in the third quarter and the Argentinians had to come. A game that went well for Delmée’s team. The team was rock solid in the back and the strikers took advantage of the space in the front. After a nice steal from Koen Beijen, the Orange got a penalty corner just before the end of the third quarter. Where just before that Teun Beins saw his bet turned, Jip Janssen opted for a variant. Successfully. Via the stick of declarant Jonas de Geus the ball went on the shelf: 0-2.
The game seemed over, but just like in the previous game with Argentina, the Netherlands unnecessarily gave away the lead.
54th minute green De Geus,
54th minute Toscani 1-2,
55th minute Martinez 2-2.
With five minutes left on the clock, it was suddenly a game again. The fanatical Argentinian audience fully supported their team, but it was the Orange that took the lead again. A confused decision and video referral preceded that, but when the clouds of dust had cleared, Janssen was allowed to take a penalty shot. He didn’t do that great, but the ball went in: 2-3.
With the courage of desperation, the home team went on the hunt for another equalizer. However, the Dutch team struck in the counter: Thierry Brinkman set the final score at 2-4. A goal that was loudly applauded by the Orange, which boosted self-confidence, but also gave Delmée the necessary homework in the run-up to the World Cup.