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06.06.2014, 12:03
Dutch women aware of the challenges that lie ahead
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PREVIEW: The Netherlands are set to grab a spot at the Women's EHF EURO 2014 and hence prepare intensively for the two remaining qualifiers against Turkey and Italy
 

Dutch women aware of the challenges that lie ahead

With three wins from four matches, the Netherlands have positioned themselves well in Group 4 of the Women’s EHF EURO Qualification.

Trailing leaders Spain only on goal difference, the Netherlands look set to grab one of the two top spots and advance to the final tournament in Hungary and Croatia in December this year.

But the Dutch team doesn’t take anything for granted ahead of its last two matches against Italy in Bari (12 June) and Turkey in Rotterdam (June 15).

Ten days before the Italy game, coach Henk Groener gathered a 23-player squad in national sports centre Papendal for a week of intensive preparations. He will take 21 players to two friendlies in Germany on 7 and 8 June and further cut his squad to 16 before travelling to Italy.

Missing from the team are injured winger Martine Smeets and top goal scorer Lois Abbingh, who underwent knee surgery. Abbingh had already been suffering from persistent left knee problems when she damaged her cruciate ligaments during the 22:29 defeat against Spain in March, the only qualifying match the Netherlands lost.

Abbingh, who is leaving German Bundesliga side VfL Oldenburg but hasn’t revealed her new club yet, is expected to be out for at least six months. That long recovery period makes it unlikely that Abbingh will be fully fit again in time for the Women's EHF EURO 2014 from 7 to 21 December – if the Netherlands qualify.

Talents set to shine

The absence of several key players opens the door to young and hungry talents, who are eager to show the coach they deserve a chance to play for the national team. One of the new faces in Groener’s squad is line player Esther Schop, the captain of domestic champions Sercodak/Dalfsen.

The call-up for the national team has taken her by surprise. "I have not been thinking about it at all. All my focus was on Dalfsen and the important games we had to play. But it’s a nice reward for the past season," Schop is quoted on the website of Dutch federation NHV. "I know I have good players ahead of me so I will have to prove myself. It will be a great experience anyway."

Schop is confident the Netherlands will secure their spot at the EHF EURO. "I’ve watched the previous match in Rotterdam against Spain (27:22). I think we certainly have good chances against Italy and Turkey. The friendlies against Germany will be a good preparation."

With two matches remaining for each team in Group 4, Spain (6 points), the Netherlands (6) and Turkey (4) are battling it out for the two qualifying spots, while Italy (0) is out. The Netherlands comfortably beat both Turkey (32:17) and Italy (28:13) at their first meetings in October.

The squad

Dutch coach Henk Groener has nominated the following 23 players in his preliminary squad for the games against Italy and Turkey:

Goalkeepers: Marieke van der Wal (Cergy Pontoise Handball '95), Tess Wester (VfL Oldenburg), Jasmina Jankovic (Frisch Auf Göppingen), Annick Lipman (Sercodak/Dalfsen)

Wingers: Debbie Bont (HC Leipzig), Ailly Luciano (Metz Handball), Michelle Goos (Succes Schoonmaak/VOC), Angela Malestein (HSG Blomberg-Lippe), Alineke Ros (Sercodak/Dalfsen), Angela Steenbakker (Handbal Venlo)

Line players: Yvette Broch (Metz Handball), Danick Snelder (Thüringer HC), Kelly Dulfer (Schuler Afbouwgroep/D.O.S.), Esther Schop (Sercodak/Dalfsen)

Back court players: Roxanne Bovenberg (Westfriesland/SEW), Laura van der Heijden (VfL Oldenburg), Jessy Kramer (Vipers Kristiansand), Nycke Groot (FC Midtjylland), Isabelle Jongenelen (HGS Blomberg/Lippe), Sanne van Olphen (Sonderjysk), Estavana Polman (Team Esbjerg), Lotte Prak (Koblenz/Weiberen), Lynn Knippenborg (Sercodak/Dalfsen)


TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ts
 
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