Netherlands win eighth hockey World Cup and end Ireland's fairytale
Hockey Netherlands win eighth hockey World Cup and end Irelandâs fairytale â¢ Ireland 0-6 Netherlands
â¢ Favourites end outsidersâ dream run with emphatic win
There are few more compelling forces in sport than this lavishly gifted Netherlands team but, first of all, a word for the runners-up.
The thought that Ireland could reach a World Cup final had been outlandish to the extent that their coach, Graham Shaw, admitted after this mismatch that the Dutch were the only opponents he had not made detailed preparations to face. Until 2016 their players had been obliged to stump up â¬550 annually for the privilege of international hockey; sometimes it is a struggle even to rent the right pitches and perhaps such a thrilling feat will focus minds back home towards better funding a sport in which there is so much burgeoning talent.
In the meantime the most salient lessons are there to be learned from the Netherlands. Their eighth title was never in doubt after Lidewij Welten, deservedly named player of the tournament at the conclusion, scored early on and the bar they have set for everyone else continues to rise. This was a crushing victory from a unit with no obvious weaknesses and, in truth, little else had been expected. In the end it was a six-goal hiding that brought delight to all parties and, to be clear, that is not to belittle the seriousness of Shawâs exceptional team.
âTo beat the teams weâve beaten, to come here now and be second in the world, itâs a truly remarkable achievement and I donât think itâll really sink in until we get home and reflect on it,â said Shaw, who might be afforded a better grasp of what they have done when Ireland receive a civic reception on their return to Dublin on Monday.
The only regret, Shaw admitted, was that Ireland did not make a game of things for slightly longer. Buoyed by a vociferous crowd that, after a last-minute dash for tickets on both sides of the Irish Sea, had turned this into something resembling a home game, they had actually made the better start before Weltenâs opener.
When Caia van Maasakker was forced into crudely halting a break by Anna OâFlanagan there were faint hopes they could follow the example of Spain, who shocked Australia to win the third-place play-off ear lier in the day. Then Welten, finding a gap between the legs of the otherwise excellent Ayeisha McFerran, broke through and the reasons for Ireland to sweat in 28C heat began mounting up.
âIreland started off really well and I think we were a little nervous as well,â Welten said. âBut I knew from the moment we scored the goal that we would get more.â Any tension having dissipated, the Netherlands stretched out and added three goals before the interval. Kelly Jonker found the corner with a clinical backhand effort, effectively put the game beyond Ireland four minutes into the second quarter; the third came when a blocked penalty corner fell nicely for Kitty van Male to score her eighth goal of the competition and confirm her status as its top scorer. Then Malou Pheninckx blasted a stunning angled finish into the roof of McFerranâs net and the priority, now, was to avoid a repeat of the routs the Dutch had dished out earlier in the fortnight.
Further punishment was limited to a tap-in from Marloes Keetels and a wonderful, lifted penalty corner strike from Van Maasakker, both arriving in the first four minutes of the second half. âOnce the Dutch relax youâre in big trouble,â Shaw reflected, but Ireland managed to stem the tide and were even afforded a few attacking flickers of their own.
A low-key final quarter was no reason to douse the championsâ euphoria at full time and Welten was certainly not wrong when she said they had âshowed the world what we are capable ofâ. Ireland stayed out for their own celebration but thoughts will soon turn to how, exactly, such an accelerated rate of progress can be maintained.
âThereâs going to be expectation now but with that comes opportunity,â said Shaw, whose next task is to ensure Ireland qualify for the 2020 Olympics. âI firmly believe the talent is in this country and we need to give them everything we can to allow them to succeed.â
They have now seen at first hand how far there is to go; this was, though, a final contested by two teams to delight in for very different reasons.Ireland beat Spain in shootout to seal shock Hockey World Cup final spot Read more Topics
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