Hockey World Cup: India vs Netherlands too tough to call, says Dutch coach

Updated: Dec 12, 2018, 11:04 IST | Ashwin Ferro | Bhubaneswar

Dutch legend Stephan Veen expects India v Netherlands quarter-final to be a close affair

India players celebrate a goal against Belgium in Bhubaneswar recently. Pic/AFP
India players celebrate a goal against Belgium in Bhubaneswar recently. Pic/AFP

Stephan Veen of the Netherlands does not remember losing to India when he played in the 1990s. That's the authority with which the Netherlands ruled hockey back then, as the legendary striker helped the Oranje to two World Cups (Lahore 1990 and Utrecht 1998) and two Olympic gold medals (Atlanta 1996 & Sydney 2000).

"We had Teun de Nooijer in the left and I was on the right so the danger could come from any side. But more importantly, we had a very good defence and it is this combination of attack and defence that helped us dominate in the 1990s," Veen, 48, tells mid-day while watching the Netherlands v Canada cross-over clash at the Kalinga Stadium here yesterday.

Stephan Veen at the Kalinga Stadium yesterday. Pic/Ashwin Ferro
Stephan Veen at the Kalinga Stadium yesterday. Pic/Ashwin Ferro

Canada, Pakistan lose
The Dutchmen hammered the Canadians 5-0 to set-up a quarter-final date with India on Thursday, while Pakistan also lost by the same margin to Belgium, who will play Germany in the other quarter-final on the same day.

Speaking of the changing order in world hockey, Veen says that while the Germans dominated the 80s, Netherlands in the 90s and Australia thereafter, currently no nation dominates the game. "At least five to six teams - Australia, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Netherlands and India - can be World Champions here so that's great for the sport," says Veen, who is involved with the Dutch Hockey Federation as High Performance Manager and is responsible for policy and appointment of coaches and staff for all teams.

'India are now a dangerous side'
His professional employment as a Talent Search Executive in the Netherlands' biggest executive research firm, Spencer Stuart, only enhances his job with the hockey federation. It also helps him analyse the current Indian team well. "Indian hockey has grown to a great extent in the last couple of years to be ranked fifth in the world. I've always liked India's style of play and players like Dhanraj Pillay and Dilip Tirkey, but the current team have perfected the game a lot more.

They have become more physical and tactical. And this, added to their natural dribbling ability makes them a very dangerous side," he explains refusing, however, to make a prediction of tomorrow's India v Netherlands quarter-final. "The Netherlands were maybe a lot better one or two years ago but it's still too tough to call. It will be a great game between two technically strong teams. The better team will be the one that take all the small chances."

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