The opening day of the FINA World League European Final’s saw two teams progress to the Semi-Finals to meet Italy and Hungary – who automatically progressed to the Semi’s through topping their group-stage groups.
In the days more competitive match, Spain had to work hard, but were good enough to bypass Greece by 13 -9, with Elena Ruiz making a huge mark in the game with 5 goals. In the earlier match-up, the Netherlands outplayed France by 18-6 with hat-tricks from Bente Rogge, Brigitte Sleeking and Lola Moolhuijzen.
Tomorrow in the two semi-finals, Hungary await Spain, and the Netherlands will play Italy.
Netherlands 18-6 France (4-1, 6-2, 5-2, 3-1)
Netherlands: J. Oosting,, I. Wolves 2, B. Sleeking 3, F. Bosveld 2, M. Schaap 1, S. Van de Kraats, B. Rogge 3, V. Sevenich, M. Van der Weijden 2, I. Koolhaas 3, L. Moolhuijzen 3, N. Ten Broek, S. Buis
France: C. Vidal, L. Fanara, G. Fitaire, L. Andres 1, L. Guillet 2, V. Kretzmann 1, J. Dhalluin 1, A. Battu, E. Vernoux 1, V. Heurataux, Y. Deschampt, A. Daule, P. Martineaud-Peret
The Netherlands really bossed their opening game of the World League today with a dominant 18-6 win over France. The Oranges were expected to win, and they did so, resting crucial players such as Laura Aarts, Sabrina Van der Sloot and both Vivian Sevenich and Simone Van der Sloot – who were on the bench for the whole game.
The Dutch will now play Italy tomorrow in the Semi-Finals.
Bente Rogge and Lola Moolhuijzen were particularly influential in the game for the Dutch, something that Eva Doudesis will be very happy with. Brigitte Sleeking was the most established Dutch player in the side, and scored three excellent goals.
France were outplayed for the majority of the game. The game at times looked even, and the French could perhaps have scored more, but the Dutch were better in practically every department.
The game itself was postponed by an hour, but when the match did finally start, the Dutch started on the front foot, dominating the play in the first.
The Dutch were the better side throughout, dominating the chances in the game and showing their quality with some fine finishing. France barely created any spells of note, although the goals they did score were good.
The Oranges opened the scoring when the ball finally found its way to the left, and Fleur Bosveld’s cross-cage shot gave Chloe Vidal no chance.
It was then 2-0 to the the Netherlands when Olympiacos’s Brigitte Sleeking was given far too much time to measure an attempt – with her shot from the top of the arc bouncing into the bottom left-corner of the goal.
France were not creating anything in the set attack, finding it hard to penetrate the drop that the Dutch were setting off the top of the arc. France’s best chance in the quarter came when Bente Rogge was excluded in the centre, but Julliete Dhaulluin’s shot could only rattle off the Dutch cross-bar.
With two minutes left in the first period, Lola Moolhuijzen made it 3-0 when 2016 Olympian Viviane Kretzmann was excluded on the counter-defense, and Moolhuijzen of Ede Polar Bears put her flexible wrists to good use – taking an early shot to beat Vidal.
France did eventually make the breakthrough with a quite excellent set-play. The timeout was called from Ilse Koolhaas’s exclusion, and Louise Guillet picked out a beautiful pass to the back post that Vivian Kretzmann could hardly miss.
But all their hard work was undone right on the buzzer as Bente Rogge’s shot dipped unexpectedly to hit the frame of the goal before going in to give the Dutch a well deserved 4-1 lead at the turn-around.
The Dutch continued where they left off in the second, as Bente Rogge netted a second goal in the match with a driven shot down to the left. France responded immediately, however, as Lara Andres was on target from 2m after turning her defender skilfully.
But France were sloppy in defense moments later, and gave away another opportunity. And with the quality on the top that the Dutch have, ZV De Zaan’s Bente Rogge scored practically the same goal again as she had moments before – securing a first half hat-trick.
Rogge was really in the mood, and could have had another goal moments later from the right-hand side, but her powerful shot could only find the frame of the goal.
After a lot of defending in their own half after successive waves of Dutch attacks, France then found themselves in the Dutch attacking third, and Julliete Dhalluin scored quite fantastically from distance. From nothing, the French were now at 6-3 – with Dhalluin’s shot ricocheting off the post.
However, the Oranges added further to their lead on the next attacks with an attacking onslaught: Firstly, Lola Moolhuijzen had time and space to measure a shot from a close-angle on the left – with her shot evading the outstretched arms of Chloe Vidal in the French goal, before Brigitte Sleeking put away a tidy man-up goal on the post position to make it 8-3.
Then, Lola Moolhuijzen bagged her hat-trick with a really delightful goal on the right; she took the pass cross-faced from Rogge, and rifled her shot back towards the left-hand side, with the ball clipping the post before finding the net.
Before the half was done, CE Mediterrani’s Marit Van der Weijden took the Dutch to double-figures with a unconvincing effort at the back post that barely crossed the line. VAR was consulted to ensure it had crossed the line, and it had, giving Eva Doudesis’s side a big lead at half-time.
Within the first attack of the 3rd quarter, the Dutch had already scored. Audrey Daule gave away the penalty, and Bente Rogge stepped up from 5m to score her third of the match.
With the sizeable lead the Dutch had amassed, they began to go for the jugular, pressing all over the pitch and suffocating France when they had the ball.
In contrast, France were not pressing well enough at all, and when Fleur Bosveld easily snuck a tidy ball into the pit, Ilse Koolhaas scored a classy second in the game. Bosveld then turned from provider to goal scorer a minute later to put the Dutch 10 goals ahead at 13-3.
With all the Ducth goals flying in, it only seemed a matter of time before Iris Wolves found the net. The Dutch worked the ball cleverly out to the wing, and Wolves bounced the ball into the near side of the French goal.
At 14-3, France needed something to hang on to in the match. And Louise Guillet provided Les Bleus with a moment to be proud of when her shot from the narrow-left struck the underside of the bar before sneaking past Janieke Oosting for 14-4. With 12 second left on the buzzer, the French scored again, and it was Olympic Nice’s Ema Vernoux who carefully floated a lob to the back post for her first in the match.
But for the second time in the game, the Dutch scored on the buzzer, and it was a vintage Iris Wolves goal from center to put the score at 15-5.
The last period of the game was noticeably scrappy, from both sides, but the Dutch really made France pay for simply being second best in the majority of battles.
Yaelle Deschampt eventually lost focus, an gave CN Terrassa’s Nina Ten Broek a goal to celebrate in the match. However, the referees adjudged that the penalty she scored had to be retaken, and Ten Broek, ironically, missed at the second time of asking.
However, the Dutch did eventually have their 16th score in the match via Marit Van der Weijden with a well taken shot in transition from a central position.
Bente Rogge, who had a great game, did make a mistake in the last – gifting Louise Guillet a penalty that she scored calmly.
The Dutch then were awarded another penalty, but Maxine Schapp, like Ten Broek, also fired her shot against the post. But Schapp made up for it not long after streaming through on the right, and slotting her first goal of the game past Chloe Vidal for 17-6.
With ninety seconds to play, Brigitte Sleeking secured her hat-trick, with an excellent bouncing finish on position 4.
Spain 13-9 Greece (1-0, 2-2, 5-4, 5-3)
Spain: L. Ester, N. Nogue, A. Espar, B. Ortiz 2, A. Munoz, I. Gonzalez 1, E. Ruiz 5, P. Pena, J. Forca 4, P. Camus 1, P. Leiton, M. Terre, M. Palacio
Greece: I. Stamatopoulou, I. Chydirioti, E. Plevritou 1, N. Eleftheriadou 4, M. Plevritou, E. Xenaki 1, E. Ninou 1, K. Ioannou, V. Plevritou 1, C. Siouti, M. Myriokefalitaki 1, K. Evangelia
Spain will be relieved that they were relatively comfortable 13-9 winners in the end against Greece. Elena Ruiz scored a fantastic 5 goals in the game, while her potential team-mate next season at Sabadell, Judith Forca, scored 4.
Greece did show some bright moments in the game, but they never looked massively assured against a really strong attacking Spanish side. Lets not forget that Spain are the reigning Olympic Silver Medallists, and so Alexia Kammenou will be moderately satisfied with how close the match was on the scoreboard.
Nikoleta Eleftheriadou was the biggest threat for the Hellenic side, with four goals, but at moments in the game the Greeks couldn’t match the intensity that Spain provided in defence.
Miki Oca will be happy that his side are now through to the Semi-Finals, where they will face Hungary – who will have no doubt been watching the contest today.
While there was a big build up to this match, its fair to say it took some time to warm-up. Both sides obviously created chances, but there was no goal-mouth action of any note in the first 5 minutes.
The best chances probably fell the way of the Greeks towards the end of the period; Nikoleta Eleftheriadou firstly had a bounce shot cleared off the line by Laura Ester, before Eleni Xenaki should have scored from close range but instead hit the bar.
We did eventually see a goal scored with half a minute left in the quarter. Eirini Ninou was excluded, and Pili Pena picked out a accurate cross-cage pass to Bea Ortiz, who finished well from a tight angle.
Both teams upped their game in the early exchanges in the second period, but it was the hosts, Spain, who grabbed the next goal. Irene Gonzalez did some good work on the top to draw the defence, before offloading the ball to Elena Ruiz, who dispatched like a seasoned professional.
Greece did reply immediately for their first goal of the game as Eirini Ninou’s early shot caught Laura Ester off guard, however it was 3-1 to Spain within moments, as Judith Forca had time on the left, and opted for a clever lob to Ioanna Stamatopoulou’s back post.
Greece were then right back in the game when some clever play in the pit by Maria Myriokefalitaki saw Bea Ortiz excluded. Myriokefalitaki then converted the man-up on the post from a beautifully weighted pop pass from her Olympiacos teammate, Nikoleta Eleftheriadou.
Greece clearly were carrying threat that concerned Spain with dominance at Centre, while Spain were creating decent chances for their incredibly strong perimeter players, but they were misfiring. Both teams had chances towards the end of the half, but the score remained at 3-2 to Spain.
Into the third period, there were nine goals for spectators to feast on with Irene Gonzalez scoring the first, as she carried her excellent form from the end of the season into this match. She didn’t have much on in terms of passing options, and opted for the lob that paid off to give her side a 4-2 lead.
However, no sooner had the Spaniards got their fourth, Greece struck back with a fabulous pit goal. Ioanna Chydirioti fed the pit well, and Eleni Xenaki’s quick hands and powerful shot was too much for Laura Ester to keep out.
Then Alexia Kammenou’s Greek side were honours even, and the goal had been coming. Pili Pena was too heavy on Eleni Xenaki, and a quick pass from Xenaki found Nikoleta Eleftheriadou at the near post, who tucked the ball easily past Ester from close range.
Elena Ruiz then proved why she is amongst the best young players in the world. She intercepted the ball with great athleticism in her own 5m, sprinted the length of the pitch and then drew a clever penalty off a rash challenge from Nikoleta Eleftheriadou. Bea Ortiz stepped up, and put the ball into the right-hand side of the goal to give her side the lead once more.
Then, another big bit of quality helped Spain to score again in the third period. Judith Forca was sat on 7m, unopposed, and used all the momentum from Annie Espar’s fizzed pass to launch a shot out of reach of the helpless Stamatopoulou.
Having worked hard to gain a parity, Greece once more found themselves behind by two. And when Paula Camus was excluded at centre, Alexia Kammenou called the timeout, and despite a rather limp looking extra-player set-play, Nikoleta Eleftheriadou absolutely smashed the ball home into the bottom left corner.
However, as quickly as the Greeks pulled a goal back, Spain had their two-goal cushion again, but thanks to some goalkeeping that Ioanna Stamatopoulou will want to forget. Elena Ruiz’s shot off the top looked simply enough to deal with, but Stamatopoulou could only palm it into the corner of her own goal.
Straight after though, Greece were very fortunate, and when Nikoleta Eleftheriadou shot hit the arm of Elena Ruiz, the ball squirmed awkwardly before spinning into the Spanish goal.
Again, however, Spain restored their two-goal lead at 8-6, as Judith Forca continued to cause chaos on the right-hand side – Forca Ariza bounced a low but powerful shot into the wave before it jerked up and rippled into the roof of the Greek net.
Greece’s leaky-looking defence continued to cause them problems into the last quarter, and Elena Ruiz bagged her hat-trick with an absolute cracker into the top-left corner. If her second goal was a bit lucky, her third was anything but.
However, Elena Ruiz neglected her defensive duties and found herself excluded, giving Vasiliki Plevritou her first sight of goal in the game, smashing home from the left.
But to make up for it, 17 year old Elena Ruiz then netted a fourth goal in the game. Ruiz found herself one again in a central position, where she is so dangerous. Bea Ortiz drew the defender on the left of the drop, giving Ruiz a clear but still challenging route at goal, and CN Rubi’s young superstar made it a quad for her in the match.
Greece were chasing the game, and needed a way back into the match on the scoreboard, but missed shots from Vasiliki Plevritou and Eleni Xenaki were half-chances at best.
Greece did eventually get the score they wanted via Eleftheria Plevritou, who did well to convert on the right, but only after Elena Ruiz scored her fifth of the match from the left hand-side to make it 11-8.
Soon, it really started to look like Spain could score with every attack. They were moving the ball so freely and finding gaps in the defence to pick their moment to shoot. Judith Forca did exactly that from a Nikoleta Eleftheriadou exclusion, for her fourth in the game.
Maria Myriokefalitaki was working hard in the pit, and an technically outstanding turn past Annie Espar gave Nikoleta Eleftheriadou a chance to bring her side within three scores, which she did (12-9).
With a minute and a half to go, Paula Camus of Terrassa got a goal for the senior team, to secure a well-earned 13-9 victory.
11:15 – Semi-Final – Hungary vs Spain
13:00 – Semi-Final – Italy vs the Netherlands