World number one prevailed against world number two at the Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup as the Netherlands beat England to advance to the semi-finals.
In recent years, these two powerhouses of the modern women’s game have developed a firm rivalry, stemming from closely fought matches in major competitions.
In 2015 England beat the Netherlands via a shootout in the final of the European Championships. The following year, Great Britain, with England players forming their backbone, triumphed over the Netherlands in the most famous match in their history, the Olympic final.
The Netherlands have not lost a match since that day, and took revenge when they secured a 1-0 win against England in the semi-final of last year’s European Championship, enroute to the title.
This contest was a typically impassioned affair, with both sets of players giving everything. On this occasion, though, the spoils went to the Oranje with a 2-0 win.
Speaking after the match Hannah Martin said: “I’m absolutely devastated. We came with a game plan but couldn’t get enough quality chances on goal, and they deserved their win in the end.”
The Netherlands came out of the blocks quickly and had a string of first-quarter chances, the first falling to the experienced Kelly Jonker in the eighth minute. She won the ball at the edge of the area before hitting a powerful reverse, but Hinch came out and made a smothering save.
The Netherlands’ Caia van Maasakker then slammed a brilliant drag flick onto the crossbar at a short corner, with Hinch saving the follow-up. Eventually, the goal the Oranje deserved arrived. Xan de Waard showed great vision to thread a through ball to Lidewij Welten, who slotted home.
Oranje chances kept coming in the second quarter, with Laura Nunnink cutting inside two England defenders and forced a good save from Hinch. Jonker then found the ball around the penalty spot, kept her cool and tried to slot past England’s number one but to no avail.
There were, though, signs of England growing into the game. Hannah Martin was beginning to cause the Oranje problems, and circle entries for the second period read a more respectable 4 to 3 in favour of the Netherlands.
However a second Netherlands goal a minute into the third quarter stopped England in their tracks. The strike showed the Oranje at their very best. Latching on to a misplaced pass, they worked a wonderful triangle with Welten playing the ball to Frederique Matla in the circle, who drew Hinch and squared to Lauren Leurink to score into an empty net.
England players created chances after that – first through Susannah Townsend and then Lily Owsley – but on both occasions no player could quite convert. With their two-goal advantage, the Netherlands reined in their attacking instinct, and this only made England’s job more difficult.
England could not be faulted for lack of effort, and ran until the very end. In the final quarter, a great run by Sophie Bray was eventually cut short by Netherlands defenders, and Sarah Haycroft created a chance with a weaving run down the right side of the area. England dispensed with their ‘keeper but, as the sun went down over Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, so it set on their World Cup hopes.
Martin focused on the positives as she reflected on the tournament. She said: “We’re still developing, we’re still building as a squad. This will just make us stronger and we’ll definitely come together, look on the things that didn’t go our way and really work on those.”
She also had a word about the England fans: “The support was unbelievable. Every single game we couldn’t have asked for any more.”