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26.11.2014, 11:34
Dutch women aim for next step
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FEATURE: While the Netherlands dream of competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, they are well aware that the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 is an important step towards this goal
 

Dutch women aim for next step

The Dutch women have recently launched a ‘One Team, One Dream’ fundraising campaign. Their dream is to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and coach Henk Groener’s team is well aware that the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 is an important step towards this goal.

The Netherlands finished fifth at the World Championship 2005 in Russia but have since failed to match that achievement during major championships.

Last year at the World Championships in Serbia, the team lost in the Last 16 to eventual champions Brazil.

However, ‘Oranje’ has high hopes that next month’s fight for the European title in Hungary and Croatia might turn things around.

Improved and better

"Shortly after the world championships it was very frustrating for us," back player Nycke Groot tells handbal.nl. "But if you look back at it now you can see the positives. I think we showed again that we have improved and are playing better and better."

26-year-old Groot, a key player for both the national team and her Danish club FC Midtjylland, is confident the Netherlands can take the next step in Varazdin, where they take on Germany, Sweden and hosts Croatia in Group C. But she also warns for unrealistic expectations.

"That would be a bit dangerous because we are still a young team and we have not been performing consistently," Groot says.

"But as a team we work very hard. I think overall we are doing quite well, technically and tactically. We are now focusing on many details and that takes time. When all pieces of the puzzle fit together we have a really strong team."

Open but tough

Groot calls Group C "very open but also very tough."

"I think every team can beat the other. Germany plays physically strong and has two great goalkeepers," she analyzes.

"Sweden has many good players who compete on top level but they haven’t performed consistently in recent times. Croatia has some great individual players and the home advantage."

Coach Groener doesn’t see a clear favourite either, and recalls the Dutch women haven’t beaten any of its three opponents for several years.

"It’s hard to tell against which team we’ll have our best chances," Groener says. "There is no doubt we need to be on top of our game for all three matches in order to advance to the next round."

Self-confidence

The Dutch women gained self-confidence by beating Spain, Tunisia and Switzerland at a four-nation invitation event last month, and will finalise their preparations by hosting Russia twice, on November 29 in Rotterdam and again the next day in Doetinchem.

By then, Groener will have cut back his initial squad of 21 players to 16. The squad list doesn’t contain surprises, though two key names are missing.

HCM Baia Mare’s Lois Abbingh is recovering from knee surgery, and former HC Leipzig player Maura Visser has been overlooked by Groener once more.

Visser is regarded by many as one of the best Dutch players of her generation but she hasn’t been called up for the national team since verbally attacking Groener and several team mates during the 2011 World Championships in Brazil.

In several interviews with Dutch media recently, Visser has made no secret of her wish to return to ‘Oranje’.

"I'm starting to realize it would be a shame if my career with the national team is already over," the 29-year-old Visser acknowledges after three years away from the team.

However, Groener hasn’t opened the door for her - yet.


TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ts
 
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