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05.10.2015, 18:46
Dutch women will take nothing for granted
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FEATURE: The Netherlands should be able to advance from Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Group 3 as long as they fully focus against Bulgaria and Austria, goalkeeper Tess Wester says
 

Dutch women will take nothing for granted

These are exciting times for the Dutch national women’s team. The IHF World Championship in Denmark is just two months away and qualification for the Olympic Games in Rio, where the Netherlands want to make their debut, is also coming up.

Still, a whole different task awaits the Netherlands first as Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Group 3 starts with matches against Bulgaria on 7 October and Austria four days later.

“In these matches we need to provide a solid basis for our qualifying campaign,” goalkeeper Tess Wester is quoted on the website of Dutch federation NHV. “Only after that we can turn our attention to the World Championship and to Rio.”

The other opponent will be Spain, which also shared a qualifying group with the Netherlands for the previous championship. Both teams won their respective home match and advanced to the final tournament. They seem to be favourites to take the top-two spots again this time, but Wester is aware that her team cannot afford to underestimate any opponent.

“There are no guarantees on an international level. We saw that in our recent games against the Czech Republic,” the keeper says, referring to the World Championship playoffs in June when the Netherlands easily won the opening leg but got beaten in the return game.

“Of course, we have a strong team on paper and we need to win these matches in order to qualify for Sweden. But it’s probably premature to say it’s a certainty.”

Statistics prove Wester right. Bulgaria, which came through Qualification Phase 1 by defeating the Faroe Islands and Azerbaijan, has always been a tough opponent for the Dutch. The Netherlands have beaten the East-Europeans only three times in 16 matches since 1972 - although their last meeting dates back as far as 1998.

The Netherlands and Austria last played each other three years ago when ‘Oranje’ beat their opponents 30:18. That, however, doesn’t mean too much for the upcoming game, according to Netherlands coach Henk Groener.

“Austria are on the rise again after a bad period,” says Groener, adding that his team has a clear target. “We have just one goal - finishing in the top two and qualify for the EURO.”

Keeper Wester, who won the ‘Tor des Jahres’ award last season for her long-distance goal against HC Leipzig, moved from VfL Oldenburg to SG BBM Bietigheim this summer. Competing in her fifth German Bundesliga season, the 22-year-old feels she has become a more complete player.

“I have matured a lot over the last three years,” she says. “I used to start thinking about every goal we conceded and I could get angry about everything. Now I am more at ease and have more trust in myself and in my qualities as a player. The game has become more fun for me.”

Wester sees a similar development with many of her Dutch teammates.

“I think as a team we are stronger than in recent years,” she says. “Many girls play for top clubs all over the world, they are playing at the highest level. They all get better individually and, hopefully, the team also improves.”

Dutch squad for the Women's EHF EURO 2016 Qualification matches against Bulgaria and Austria:

Goalkeepers: Marieke van der Wal (Virto/Quintus), Tess Wester (SG BBM Bietigheim), Jasmina Janković (TuS Metzingen)

Court players: Debbie Bont (København Håndbold), Ailly Luciano (Metz Handball), Laura van der Heijden (Team Esbjerg), Jessy Kramer (Vipers Kristiansand), Nycke Groot (Györi Audi ETO KC), Estavana Polman (Team Esbjerg), Yvette Broch (Györi Audi ETO KC), Danick Snelder (Thüringer HC), Martine Smeets (SG BBM Bietigheim), Michelle Goos (Succes Schoonmaak/VOC Amsterdam), Lynn Knippenborg (Vipers Kristiansand), Angela Malestein (SG BBM Bietigheim), Kelly Dulfer (VfL Oldenburg), Sanne van Olphen (Toulon Saint Cyr Var Handball), Angela Steenbakkers (Sercodak/Dalfsen), Anouk van der Wiel (Thüringer HC), Esther Schop (Nantes Loire Atlantique), Lois Abbingh (HCM Baia Mare)


TEXT: Eric Willemsen / cor
 
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