FIH Pro League: The Netherlands celebrates its return with a big win

The Netherlands  announced its return to the prestigious FIH Pro League with an impressive 5-2 home win over South American hockey powerhouse Argentina on Wednesday. 

It was a scintillating first half performance against Argentina as the host nation was unable to sustain the tempo but by the time it ran out of steam, the game was beyond the reach of the Pan American champions.

It is four months since the Dutch last played FIH Pro League hockey. On that occasion it beat France 5-1, but the men in orange started with an energy and flow that immediately put Argentina on the back foot.

For its part, Argentina is on the verge of completing its FIH Pro League matches, with tomorrow’s (2 June) match as its final fixture. It currently sit in third place in the league and will now be relying on other teams to decide its final position.

For the home team, Jair van der Horst and Bram van Battum scored on their debut. Van der Horst’s goal was within three minutes of the start of the game with the newcomer’s first touch on the ball. Van Battum’s goal was a perfect example of how a squaerial (an aerial that goes across the pitch) can change the angle of attack. Van Battum was in the perfect position to receive a pass and shoot home. Jip Janssen completed a trio of goals in the first half with a powerful penalty corner strike that went through Tomas Santiago’s legs in the Argentina goal.

Netherlands started the second half in much the same fashion. Two quick goals from Koen Bijen and Tjep Hoedemakers gave the team a seemingly indomitable 5-0 lead. Bijens’ goal was a well struck shot from the edge of the D and then Bijen laid on a perfect pass for Hoedemakers to run the ball home.

A yellow card for Stein van Heijningen was the catalyst for a change in momentum and Argentina took full advantage. First Nicolas della Torre whipped home a penalty corner that left Pirmin Blaak just watching it go past him and then Martin Ferreiro was on hand to send a second goal past Blaak.

Argentina piled on the pressure in the final 20 minutes of the match and was unfortunate not to find more reward for its efforts. After such a scintillating start, Jeroen Delmee will be seeking to understand how his team looked to have so rapidly drained of energy and ideas on the pitch. 

Player of the Match, Derck de Vilder (NED) said: ‘The feeling of being voted Player of the Match is great. I am very happy that we won. The first half we played man to man and it went well. In the second half, we switched to zonal marking and we had trouble with that and couldn’t find each other.’

Nicolas della Torre (Argentina) said: ‘The first quarter was very uncomfortable for us and we made a lot of mistakes. After that, getting back into the game was difficult. But, we have come a long way and we want to get a good result for our final match, so we will look to improve tomorrow.’

The results mean that Argentina are third in the FIH Hockey Pro League and Netherlands are sixth, but with nine matches still to play. 

Result: Men
Netherlands 5, Argentina 2 
Player of the Match: Derck de Vilder (the Netherlands)

Meanwhile, Indian men and women teams will be leaving for Europe next week to play their remaining matches of the FIH Pro League. Indian men will take on Belgium on June 11 and 12 besides playing the Netherlands at the subsequent weekend while Indian women will play  besides Argentina, USA and Belgium during their ensuing European tour.

In the men’s section, India are at the top of the table with 27 points from 12 matches while Germany and Argentina are tied at number two position with 25 points each. Germany has played 14 matches and Argentine 15 so far. Argentina plays its last game against the Netherlands tomorrow (June 2). India will also complete its FIH Pro League engagements after the second game against the Netherlands later this month. India is the only team  from Asia competing in the men’s section.

In the women’s section, Argentine is at the top of the table with 38 points from 14 games while India is placed at number 3 position with 22 points from eight games. The Netherlands is at number two position with 23 points from 10 games. Indian women are playing in the League for the first time. China is the only other Asian women team in the competition.