The Netherlands has reached the final of the European Championship for the thirteenth time. In a compelling semi-final battle, Belgium was defeated after taking shoot-outs, after sixty minutes it was 2-2. On Saturday in the final, the Orange squad will face Germany, which defeated England earlier in the day.
After the last decisive shoot-out, which he beautifully shot past Vincent Vanasch with the backhand, Jorrit Croon dropped to his knees, raised his arms first and covered his eyes with his hands. His teammates came rushing from the midline and dove on top of the young midfielder, who crowned his strong game with gold. After he had come out from under the melee of players, the real release came to Croon. Tears streamed down his cheeks, while Mirco Pruyser took him in a fatherly arms.
Emotions screamed through the Wagener Stadium.
How different was this match compared to just twelve days ago, when Belgium and the Netherlands also faced each other. Then it was a competition in Antwerp, without an audience and also without interests. Today a different location, a packed stadium and a match of considerable value.
The Netherlands won 4-0 in that last meeting. Then the Orange squad took the lead at the beginning of the second quarter via Roel Bovendeert, who is constantly with the group as a reserve player, but does not play along. A few rows above his teammates, he watched the first half go by scoreless. There was certainly danger on both sides. The first big opportunity was for the Netherlands, which got a penalty corner after eight minutes. However, Jip Janssen’s attempt, supported in the stands by his old club Naarden, missed the world champion’s goal.
Shortly afterwards, the first real chance for the Belgians arose, when the Belgian veteran John-John Dohmen tested Pirmin Blaak with a hard shot in a packed circle. The Netherlands – where Justen Blok was given playing time, just like against Wales – could not do much offensively against Belgium. Up to the 23-meter line it often went quite nicely and smoothly, but after that it usually didn’t come out that a good-luck cross, which was more often not touched than was touched.
On the other side were not many, but just a few more chances. For example, Belgium – playing without its injured captain Thomas Briels – received its first corner six minutes before half-time, which Glenn Schuurman completed fantastically. Like two sumo wrestlers trying to unbalance each other, the rivals entered the locker room.
That impasse was broken after Schuurman, the jubilee with 150 caps, lost the ball. The ball was swept hard into the Dutch circle by Gauthier Boccard and ended up with the completely detached Nicolas De Kerpel, who simply gave Belgium the lead five minutes after the break. Orange therefore had to start a catch-up race. But before the Netherlands could come up with a plan, the flames exploded. It started with Arthur Van Doren, who, according to Sander de Wijn, lay down too easily. De Wijn grew tall, took a few steps forward and spoke angrily to Van Doren. Then Victor Wegnez also got involved; he pushed The Wine away. Remarkably enough, Wegnez and De Wijn were punished equally severely: with a green card.
The game was on the wagon and every skirmish was suddenly something big. The match turned out to be a compelling squatter and the 3,500-strong audience fully supported the Orange. Pirmin Blaak kept the Netherlands in the game at the start of the fourth quarter, with a world save on a bet by Tom Boon. Shortly afterwards, the Netherlands finally got that big chance it was hoping for: a penalty corner. However, that could soon be put a line through, because the ball on the head of the circle was not stopped well by Billy Bakker.
The Netherlands continued to keep pressure on the Belgian defence, which had not flinched throughout the game. Until the 52 th minute, where Seve van Ass clears it. The HGC midfielder got it back from Thierry Brinkman and shot through the post with a fierce and brilliant shot: 1-1. Barely recovered from the luck of that equaliser, the Belgians reappeared in the circle and forced their second corner. Alexander Hendrickx pushed the Netherlands mercilessly from its pink cloud and thus signed for the 1-2.
The Orange then had eight minutes to come back. The Netherlands passionately sought the circle and that resulted in two more penalty corners. The first was dragged by Janssen hard and high. Attempt two did yield a result: it went through Vincent Vanasch, so that it was 2-2 four minutes before time. The Wagener was shaking to its foundations. Euphoria in its purest form. Goosebumps filled the spectators’ arms.
The brilliant match came to a thrilling conclusion. Shoot-outs had to make a decision in this heated fratricidal battle. At the World Cup in India, the Orange lost the final to Belgium in this way. After the Netherlands had missed two and Belgium three, the home team seemed to reach match point. But while Jorrit Croon was already ready, it appeared from the video referral that Arthur Van Doren was allowed to moor again. The result remained the same: Van Doren’s attempt, which was again challenged by the Belgians, failed.
Croon was therefore allowed to stand again and set Wagener on fire. His striking shoot-out caused an explosion of joy and – more importantly – a place in the final.
Netherlands – Belgium 2-2 (Ned wns)
35′ Nicolas de Kerpel 0-1
52′ Seve van Ass 1-1
53′ Alex Hendrickx 1-2
56′ Jip Janssen 2-2Last updated: 13 hours ago↓