Netherlands v Spain 7-10 – Split 2022

In a span of 1:45 minutes Spain jumped to a 0-2 lead with the usual great centre goal by Maica Garcia  and a fine action shot by Elena Ruiz – and that made a long-lasting impact, at least to the rest of the first  half. Both teams missed a woman-up in the following phase before Simone van de Kraats put the Dutch  on the scoreboard after 5:12 minutes. The Spanish centres went on delivering, next came a penalty,  Beatriz Ortiz buried it but Nina ten Broek hit a nice one from action for 2-3. 

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Spain took the upper hand against the  Netherlands with three great periods – LEN Total Waterpolo

Still, after killing a woman-down, Spain earned another penalty, Ruiz made no mistake – and the Dutch  started playing with even more tensions. In the next five minutes they were unable to score from two  man-ups, in between they had problems to set up the centres or to make their lethal perimeter shots.  Later two huge saves from Laura Aarts kept them close but she couldn’t do much when Ruiz came one on-one in the next counter, the lob put Spain 2-5 up. It could have been +4 but the Dutch defended  brilliantly in a woman-up, got a 6 on 5 with 10 seconds to go, called a time-out and Sabrine van der  Sloot needed only seven to pull one back for 3-5. 

This was a psyche-lifting finish, and the Dutch came back fresh and with a positive mindset after the  three-minute break, and most importantly their defence managed to neutralise the Spanish centre forwards for most of the time. When they needed to face a woman-down, they moved quite well, denied  two in this period, and when they had 6 on 5s, they put both away. It happened midway through the  third, in 1:30 minutes, there was no way to stop Brigitte Sleeking’s blasts. All of sudden it was 5-5 – but  the Spaniards reacted well, and in a long possession, after two saved shots, Ruiz managed to beat Aarts  with a brilliant one-timer, it was her fourth in the game. 

Whatever happened in the third, the fourth offered the same pattern we had seen in the first half – though one may have got used to that in the women’s game you should expect the unexpected. The  Dutch were unable to maintain their high-level defence and their offensive level also dropped a bit  unexpectedly. Paula Leiton got a fine pass in the first extra on the 2m line, from there it was easy, then  Sleeking was blocked in the Dutch woman-up and in a minute Pili Pena’s left-handed shot hit the back  of the net as the defenders let her way too close and the blocking hands didn’t cover the goal enough.  Vivian Sevenich pulled one back with 4:58 to go for 6-8, then both sides missed a man-up apiece – it  was more painful for the Dutch in the given situation. Especially because Anni Espar managed to sneak  away and finished off the counter for 6-9 – with 3:45 on the clock, it seemed to be decisive. It was,  indeed – and soon four separated the two sides when Ortiz netted an extra. Even though Sleeking’s next  shot hit the back of the net in a 6 on 5, the Dutch couldn’t score any more in the remaining 2:38  minutes.

Flash Quotes

Evangelos Doudesis, coach, Netherlands

“We didn’t pace our game properly in the first half, we didn’t find the right rhythm, we rather followed  the Spanish game, their style dominated, we just chased them. If we looked nervous, that is hundred per  cent my fault, it’s the coach’s job to prepare the players for any kind of situation. In the third we did  better, but in the fourth period we let them have counters, had turnovers, which means that we didn’t  have the proper mindset to keep the game under control. This was a tough lesson, but we’ll learn from it  and we’ll be back even stronger.”  

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LEN Total Waterpolo

Miki Oca, coach, Spain 

“The girls did a fantastic job. We had a plan and they did everything, really, everything. They defended  extremely well, which is not easy against Netherlands, as they have fantastic shooters, they are strong  but our defence worked really well. In the third the Netherlands came back but this how sport works,  sometimes it comes in your way, sometimes not – at the end we could regain the control, again, the girls  did almost everything perfectly.” 

Sabrina van den Sloot, captain, Netherlands 

“I think we started the match poorly. Then somewhere in the second and third quarter we had a feeling  that we could control the match. Then in beginning of the last quarter we conceed a couple of fast goals  from their counter-attacks, and then the gap was just too big for us to come back. At this point there was  too little time for that. Nevertheless, for us it would be very important to win the bronze medal and  close the Championships with a win. Still, it is not that bad to lose to Spain if you know you gave your  best. I think it will help us to grow as a team for the future events, with Paris 2024 on the horizon. I was  in Belgrade in 2016, this is not my first experience of playing in an arena, but it’s a shame that there  aren’t that many people on the stands, especially for the women’s matches. I think the level of the game  is very high and I think we deserve the same attention as the men.” 

Elena Ruiz, player, Spain 

“We knew the Netherlands would be a very tough opponent, and it was. It was a very tough game today.  We played focused in our defence, and when the defence works, the victory is so much easier. And it is what happened. We did a great job in defence, so the attack and the counter-attack also worked  very well. We worked a lot to be here, at the end of a very long season. So now it is time to be ready for  the final.” 

Paula Leiton, player, Spain 

“The final is going to be so hard, tough game for sure. But we know how this kind of European finals  are to be played and we have to be ready and we will do our best to get the gold. Our coach knows how  to prepare us for the finals, we need to be focused on and be in a perfect shape. Our strength and our intensity depends on our physical conditions. We worked so hard for that and we are ready  for the final.”