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25.11.2016, 10:03
Netherlands set eye on a medal at EHF EURO 2016
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TEAM CHECK NETHERLANDS: Coming off the most successful 12 months in the history of Dutch handball and now led by new coach Helle Thomsen, the Netherlands aim for another high-flying performance in Sweden. Part #6 of the EHF EURO team check
 

Netherlands set eye on a medal at EHF EURO 2016 

The Netherlands followed up on winning their surprise silver medal at the World Championship 2015 by placing fourth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last August.

For the Dutch women the time has come to cement their status as one of Europe’s leading teams. Under new coach Helle Thomsen they are eager to take their first piece of EHF EURO silverware with them from Sweden.

The roster

Consistency was key under former coach Henk Groener, and Thomsen is not breaking with that tradition and sticks with a largely unchanged squad.

A surprise addition, however, is centre back Maura Visser, who scored 36 goals to finish fifth on the top scorers list of EHF EURO 2010. Visser has not worn the orange jersey for the past five years as she didn’t get another call-up from Groener after verbally falling out with the coach and several team mates during the World Championship 2011 in Brazil. But looking for additional experience in her team, Thomsen has now invited the 31-year-old Bietigheim player back.

Missing in Sweden will be Metz right wing Jurswailly Luciano, who has ended her national team career after 115 goals in 56 matches for ‘Oranje’.

The attack

The Netherlands have been receiving applause for their pressing and creative playing style for many years, but lately the attractive yet risky approach has brought them success as well.

Key to applying the attacking philosophy are two pairs who have put their stamp on the Dutch rise in recent years: Right back Laura van der Heijden – the most experienced player on the squad with 161 caps – with her Team Esbjerg counterpart on the left, Estavana Polman; and centre back Nycke Groot with Györ team mate and line player, Yvette Broch.

Apart from a fifth EHF Champions League player on the squad, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria’s Danick Snelder, coach Thomsen can also count on the firing power of Lois Abbingh, who is the only player on the team with a scoring average of more than four goals per match.

It will be interesting to see how Thomsen is going to fit in Visser into this well-oiled machine.

The defence

With the attack arguably the most appealing part of the team, Thomsen will look to further strengthen the defence as well.

In the limited time the new coach has had so far to train with the team, she put an emphasis on quick movement and fast transitions.

The Dutch defence has a leader in Tess Wester, the extrovert Bietigheim goalkeeper who grabbed her chance when Jasmina Jankovic picked up a knee injury just ahead of last year’s World Championship.

Apart from being an outstanding shot stopper, Wester always keeps an open eye for the opponent’s goal and already has six goals on her tally.

The coach

When Groener announced his farewell from the national team after seven years in charge late September, he initially planned to still lead the Netherlands at EHF EURO 2016. However, as former Sweden coach Thomsen was presented as his successor only few days later, Groener’s reign ended abruptly.

Thomsen already led the team early October during the Holland Handball Tournament, which also featured EHF EURO participants Serbia and Romania.

The Dutch team won the event but as many key players – including Groot, Broch and Polman – were missing for various reasons, there was no clear indication yet which changes Thomsen might bring to the team’s playing style.

And we will not find out ahead of EHF EURO 2016, either. The Netherlands were scheduled to play a warm-up tournament in Romania but will send a B team as Thomsen prefers to keep her team at home for an extra week of training sessions before traveling to Sweden directly on 1 December.

Outlook

Coach Thomsen has not yet announced her target but the growing legion of Dutch handball fans won’t expect anything less than the semi-finals again – and hope for even more.

Preliminary Group B will be more than just a warm-up round as the Dutch are facing neighbouring rivals Germany, last year’s World Championship semi-final opponents Poland, and Olympic silver medallists France, to whom they lost in the group stage and again in the semi-finals in Rio.

If the Netherlands have got into their stride by the start of the main round, a lot is possible. Key will be to regain their consistency from last year’s World Championships, which was lacking for parts of the Olympics.

Getting fresh impetus from their new Danish coach, the Netherlands should live up to expectations and take a medal. Any colour seems possible.

The 17 players nominated by the Netherlands for the Women’s EHF EURO 2016

Goalkeepers: Jasmina Jankovic (TuS Metzingen), Tess Wester (SG BBM Bietigheim)

Left wings: Michelle Goos (Buxtehuder SV), Martine Smeets (SG BBM Bietigheim)

Left backs: Jessy Kramer (Toulon Saint Cyr Var Handball), Lois Abbingh (Issy Paris), Kelly Dulfer (VfL Oldenburg), Estavana Polman (Team Esbjerg)

Centre backs: Lynn Knippenborg (Buxtehuder SV), Maura Visser (SG BBM Bietigheim), Nycke Groot (Györi Audi ETO KC)

Right backs: Laura van der Heijden (Team Esbjerg), Sanne van Olphen (Toulon Saint Cyr Var Handball)

Right wings: Debbie Bont (København Håndbold), Angela Malestein (SG BBM Bietigheim)

Line players: Danick Snelder (Ferencvárosi TC), Yvette Broch (Györi Audi ETO KC)


TEXT: Eric Willemsen / ts
 
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