The Netherlands doesn’t get humiliated often in men’s field hockey. When it happens, the Dutch don’t forget. Armed with memories from a blowout loss to Australia in the World Cup Final in 2014, the Netherlands took control from the start of their Olympic quarterfinal match. Billy Bakker scored 49 seconds into the match to set the tone in a 4-0 victory on Sunday.
“The energy we had _ maybe for some guys, the way we lost the World Cup Final was in the back of their heads,” Dutch player Bob de Voogd said, referring to the 6-1 loss. “The energy we had, the desire to go to the semifinal, was really big today.”
Australia coach Graham Reid knew what was happening right away.
“That game was probably two years in the making,” Reid said. “That World Cup _ there was a fair few of those boys who were out there tonight who had that deep-seated want for revenge.”
The quarterfinal matched the world’s top two teams, something the second-ranked Dutch didn’t expect so early. But top-ranked Australia slipped and finished third in its pool.
“It was pretty surprising,” Dutch player Sander Baart said. “I think Australia didn’t show their best hockey in the Pool A, and that’s why we faced them in the quarterfinals right now, because we played quite all right in our pool.”
The Australians had medaled in six consecutive Olympics, claiming gold in 2004 and bronze in 2008 and 2012.
“It’s a disappointing thing to go out in the quarterfinals,” Reid said. “You get those opportunities once every four years, and all the things we’ve done over the past four years have put us in a position where you feel as though everything is in the right place.”
The Dutch advanced to play Belgium in the semifinals on Tuesday. Belgium defeated India 3-1 earlier in the day.
After Bakker’s early goal, Australia dominated possession in the second period, but the Netherlands consistently made good defensive plays in the circle. The Dutch then added to their lead when de Voogd knocked one in late in the second.
Valentin Verga scored for the Dutch early in the third period, and Mink van der Weerden added another goal early in the fourth.
“It feels pretty strong,” de Voogd said. “The control we had in the game there _ the focus. We stayed together the whole time. We prepared so good for this game, we know what our plan was and we executed what we had to do.”
Goalie Jaap Stockmann registered the shutout for the Netherlands. Now, the Dutch can focus on neighboring Belgium, a nation they play often.
“We know that they are a really good team,” De Voogd said. “They showed it right from the start in the tournament. They’re playing really good hockey.”