Olympic Champions England vs World Champions Netherlands

Investec Women’s Hockey International, 11 June 2017

Excitement in hockey is building ahead of the England women’s match against the Netherlands on 11 June. Billed as the clash of the champions, the world’s top two teams will meet at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in a game that for many of the players will bring back vivid memories of GB’s victory in the women’s hockey final at the 2016 Olympics.

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Who can forget Great Britain’s women’s gold medal-winning performance at the Rio Games, when they beat reigning world champions the Netherlands in a thrilling final, which was eventually decided by a dramatic penalty shootout?

Despite GB’s unbeaten progress through the earlier rounds, the team needed to show immense grit and determination to emerge triumphant, enduring long periods of pressure from the formidable Dutch side. The final finished 3-3 in normal time, with Britain’s keeper Maddie Hinch making a number of exceptional saves. When it came down to penalties, it was ultimately Hinch who thwarted the Netherlands in the shootout, which GB won 2-0.

Famously, Hinch had prepared rigorously for that moment and referred to notes she’d made on her opponents before facing down the Dutch players, saving four penalties.

“I basically give myself a game plan for each player and I execute that. Thankfully it worked. The Dutch did what I thought they would do”, Hinch said afterwards.

Yet, for all the keeper’s heroics, the GB women’s victory wasn’t about one player but was down to teamwork, a collective passion and drive to succeed. Hinch’s GB and England teammate Alex Danson emphasised the relentless focus on detail and the legwork the squad put in ahead of the Rio tournament.

“It’s about margins, and the biggest word is ‘preparation’”, Danson reflected.

As well as inspiring a new generation of hockey players and fans, the lessons learned from GB’s Olympic success should stand England in good stead for their match against the Netherlands in June, where many of the same players will be in action. With the two teams so evenly matched, it’s conceivable the result will once again come down to penalties. Will the Dutch have learnt from Rio and, this time, have a few surprises in store for Hinch? It’s a mouth-watering prospect; no wonder the match is a sell-out.

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