The Netherlands have become European champions for the fifth time and have retained the title won in London two years ago. After going 0-2 down a Dutch comeback seemed far from possible, considering the scoreline the last time these two nations met. Robbert Kemperman, however, had other ideas and used everything he had, leading a charge and comeback that will be talked about for a long time.
It was the hardest forehand that Robbert ‘ Mr backhand ‘ Kemperman had ever struck. At last, finally, a Dutchman who had managed to get a hockey ball past the ever impressive Vincent Vanasch. A rocket of a shot, of over one hundred kilometers per hour. And his response was the fiercest goal celebration ever. Was that frustration after the 0-5 defeat on Monday evening, or was it pure liberation and delicious aggression after going 2-0 down?
The sound of revenge echoed in the Wagener Stadium, the 0-5 hammering that is sorely remembered. Somewhere deep in the body by Mirco Pruyser – who took Netherlands emphatically in tow – and in the heart of Robbert Kemperman burned a huge fire.
Netherlands against Belgium was a battle of giants. Between two teams full of hockey professionals, who are evenly matched. With bodies, modeled as the top athletes at the World Championships athletics. This was the boxing match that the whole hockey world hoped for, and where the men in Orange were so desperate to land the last blow.
The most important question for the game was: Will the Dutch opt for a defensive, chess style game play after the 0-5 humiliation on Monday evening? Or would the Netherlands stick to their own offensive, fast attacking game? It was the latter. As early as the second minute Sander intercepted the high ball of Belgium, releasing the ball to Robbert Kemperman who set up a two on one attack with Mirco Pruyser and Bjorn Kellerman bearing down on Vincent Vanasch in the Belgium goal. So the tone was set, this was going to be anything other than a defensive affair. Moments later it was Captain Seve Van Ass with a wonderful offensive pass to penetrate the Belgian circle. It was clear: the first five minutes was not going Belgium’s way – such as Monday evening – but the Netherlands had full control.
Moments later it was a touch, via a Belgian penalty corner. Tom Boon pushed through a nasty bounce, which left both, keeper Pirmin Blaak and Floris Wortelboer surprised. It looked unconvincing an unconvincing way to take the lead. Belgium now had their heads up and was starting to dicate the flow and tempo of the game. It wasn’t long before half time that Cedric Charlier took full advantage of a lapse of concentration from the Dutch defensive to defect over the hapless Netherlands Goal Keeper. 2-0 Belgium.
When it seemed as if Belgium had the match sewn up and were cruising to the final whistle and becoming European Champions, Robbert Kemperman exploded into the game. Taking the ball out of the air he then hit one of the hardest shots he has ever produced to score past Vanasch. There came the aggression and conviction that the Dutch had missed. Kemperman relished after the ball in midfield before winning a short corner. The chance dropped to Pruyser, who calmly leveled the scores.
Thanks to Kemperman Orange suddenly seemed to believe in a victory. The star corner shooter Mink van der Weerden stepped up and struck hard and low with a powerful drag flick to put the Orange ahead. With nothing to lose Shane McLeod replaced Vincent Vanasch for a field player in the final minutes, almost ten thousand fans could smell the European title. With Belgium pushing high up the pitch for an equaliser, any slight mistake would see the Dutch breakaway and score. A slip in midfield and the ball was turned over, Pruyser sprinting to the D to tuck the ball into the empty net and secure the European Championships with just seconds to play. Team mates chased after him dragging him to the ground, in an explosion of joy. National coach Max Caldas stood with tears in his eyes after the game. He is the first coach to win the European Title twice.