Two of the world’s best women’s teams, Spain and the Netherlands, will battle for the gold medal in the European Championship match in Eindhoven.
This rematch of last summer’s World Championship final in Fukuoka will see Spain vying for their third consecutive gold medal, but standing in their way are the formidable World Champions and hosts, the Netherlands – who have won a record five European Gold medals.
The Spanish reach the final after putting on a simply breathtaking display against Greece (13-5), while the Netherlands edged past Italy in a massively exciting 7-6 win.
This means that Spain has now reached their fifth European Championship final, marking their third consecutive appearance in the final in as many years. Meanwhile, the Netherlands finds themselves at this stage for the tenth time.
Spain and the Netherlands previously clashed in the final of the European Championships in 2014, with the Spaniards emerging victorious by an emphatic 10-5 scoreline. Notably, three members of the current team, namely Laura Ester, Maica Garcia, and Anni Espar, were part of that winning squad.
Greece and Italy will face each other in the bronze medal match, and with Spain and the Netherlands both contesting the final, the real winners prize in that game is now qualification for the Paris Olympic Games.
2024 European Women’s Championships, Day 6
The Netherlands defeated Italy by a narrow 7-6 scoreline in a frantic and fantastic semi-final.
Although the scoreline was low, the quality on display was immense. The Netherlands deserved the win, and both sides earned the standing ovation they received at the end of the match.
Sabrina Van der Sloot led by example with two scores, while Maartje Keuning and Total Player 2023 Simone Van de Kraats both contributed with braces.
Italy struggled to mobilize their top players; Bianconi accumulated two personal fouls early on, while Claudia Marletta was somewhat harshly suspended from the match. Despite good performances from Domitilla Picozzi and Caterina Banchelli, the occasion might have gotten to the Setterosa in the end.
The atmosphere inside the Pieter van den Hoogenband Swimming Stadium was tense, and nothing could separate the two sides after eight minutes. Simone Van de Kraats opened the scoring from a penalty, but Domitilla Picozzi equalized with 33 seconds left in the quarter (1-1).
The game remained deadlocked up to half-time (3-3). The Netherlands retook the lead after Claudia Marletta was controversially suspended from the game, before Italy briefly went 3-2 up (Avegno and Palmieri). The Dutch leveled via their captain Van der Sloot’s 5m penalty. They might have even gone ahead but for some brilliant saves from Italy’s keeper, Caterina Banchelli.
Both teams probed in the third, but neither could pull away from each other.
The Dutch looked to be heading into the final quarter a goal ahead with a late score from Van der Kraats, but a rocket from Dafne Bettini with 5 seconds left in the third set up a grandstand final section of the match.
Maartje Keuning kicked off the 4th quarter with a quickly taken goal before a lengthy technical issue stopped the match. It didn’t soothe the tension. Chance by chance passed the Italians by before the Dutch got what they needed – a two-score lead. Sabrina Van der Sloot was left alone at the top, and she didn’t need asking twice, rocketing the ball into the top-right corner. Roberta Bianconi pulled one back late on, but the Dutch held firm to book their place in the final.
In the game before, Spain delivered one of the finest semi-final displays you’ll ever see, demolishing Greece 13-5.
All credit goes to the Spaniards, who outclassed their opponents with a special performance of the highest quality. Inspired by an unstoppable 78% (7/9) powerplay conversion rate and supported by 10 saves from Martina Terre, Spain limited Greece to only five goals throughout the match. They simply didn’t stand a chance.
Judith Forca led the scoring with three goals, but it was a stunning team performance from all of Spain’s experienced players, including Anni Espar, Bea Ortiz, and Maica Garcia.
Greece created numerous chances, but they couldn’t find a way through. Although Martina Terre’s formidable form was a factor, there’s no denying Greece could have been more clinical, with just a 19% efficiency.
Greece still have the opportunity to secure Olympic qualification and a bronze medal against Italy, but for now, Greece’s wait for European glory continues.
While Greece opened the scoring, Spain dominated early on to set the tone. Securing the next four scores, they found it all too easy to penetrate the Greek defense (4-1). In contrast, Greece couldn’t build any momentum in their attack, largely due to an oustanding showing from 21-year-old Martina Terre (21).Although Eleni Xenaki eventually netted at 2:09, that was the narrative for the first half (5-2).
However, in the third period, Spain completely seized control with a string of four sublime extra-player goals (Forca 2, Camus, and Ortiz). DespiteGreece’s efforts, they couldn’t breach Spain’s impenetrable defense (9-3).
The scoring frenzy persisted in the final quarter, with Spain sealing the game when they reached 10 goals via Maica Garcia (10-3). Crespi, Ortiz, and Pili Pena further added to Greece’s woes, securing a commanding victory for the reigning champions.
In the first 5th-8th classififcation match, France showed greater stamina securing a hard-fought 12-10 victory over Croatia.
The match was extremely competitive, but Croatia couldn’t maintain consistency in their attack. In defence, Croatia more than held their own when on 6 on 6, but Bruno Sabioni’s team were too often caught on the break by France’s blistering forwards, who eventually overwhelmed the Croats.
The pivotal moment occurred a minute before the end of the third period, as France established a four-score lead for the first time through Bouloukbachi’s brilliant center goal. Despite a spirited effort from Croatia, narrowing the gap to one score in the last period (10-9), they struggled to contend with Aurelie Battu at center-forward and failed to capitalize on their opportunities.
France’s offensive prowess proved decisive in overcoming the Croatians. Orsolya Hertzka, who has had a transformative impact on the team since joining last summer, contributed with three goals, alongside stalwart Ema Vernoux.
Although Kiara Brnetic was a bright spark for the Croatians with three first-half goals, her exclusion due to three major fouls four minutes before the end of the game proved a significant setback. Sixteen-year-old Jelena Butic made a noteworthy contribution with four goals.
France will face Hungary in the 5th place match after thrashing Great Britain.
Although the Magyars clearly didn’t want to play this game, they ensured a victory with respect, and without any undue suspense.
With a clinical 60% shot conversion rate, Hungary exceeded the twenty-goal mark in the match. Captain Rita Keszthelyi led the charge with five goals, while Kamilla Farago and Panna Tiba (both from UVSE) and Dorottya Szilagyi (Eger) completed hat-tricks.
Looking ahead, Great Britain now set-up a pivotal match against Croatia.
The outcome of this encounter will determine a guaranteed spot at the World Championships in Doha, a tournament Team GB has not participated in since 2013. Croatia, on the other hand, has never reached this prestigious tournament before.
Israel concluded its underwhelming European campaign in Eindhoven with a 9th-place with a narrow 13-12 win over Serbia.
Maria Bogachenko proved decisive for the Israelis, scoring four goals, including the game-winner with 45 seconds remaining. Both teams will reflect on what could have been in Eindhoven, as both sides missed out on qualification for the World Championships in Doha.
Germany couldn’t replicate its 10th-place finish from Split 2022 but had to settle for 11th.
Hat-tricks from Belen Vosseberg and Gesa Deike in the last quarter made all the difference. Czechia won’t be too disapointed though, matching their 12th place finish from their last participation in the tournament back in 1997.
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