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FIH Hockey Pro League: "Making memories more important than the scoreline" says Dutch coach ahead of India match

Savita will lead the Indians against World Champions Netherlands
Savita will lead the Indians against World Champions Netherlands

The Indian women's hockey team will take on World and Olympic champions Netherlands in a double-header this weekend as part of the ongoing FIH Pro League season.

The Indians have played China, Spain, and Germany thus far and have 12 points from six matches with three wins and one loss. A couple of matches went into a shootout, with India winning one.

The Dutch, surprisingly, dropped a point against Spain, but are comfortably placed at the top of the Pro League points table with 17 points from six games.

The hosts last played the Netherlands in the opening match of the Olympic Games last year. They held on bravely in the first half, with the scoreline tied at 1-1, before allowing the imposing Dutch girls to take control and go down 1-5.

Captain Savita Punia said that mistakes committed by the Indians allowed the Dutch to veer ahead in Tokyo - and that (now former coach) Sjoerd Marijne's team were not outdone or outplayed on the day.

"During the last match we played against the Netherlands, we did extremely well in the first half. While it's true that the Dutch girls scored freely in the second half, the mistakes that we made on the field led to the goal spree."

The champion goalkeeper, who will lead the side in the absence of Rani Rampal, who is recuperating following injury, refused to read too much into the composition of this Dutch team which predominantly comprises newcomers.

"Sjoerd Marijne used to tell us how difficult it is to find a place in the national squad of the Netherlands team given the intense competition at the club level."
The Indian women are relishing playing in the FIH Pro League
The Indian women are relishing playing in the FIH Pro League
"The visiting youngsters will be keen to prove their mettle ahead of the upcoming World Cup and we are not taking them lightly, or any differently than we would normally."

Savita also told Sportskeeda that coach Janneke Schopman now adopts much the same methods as her predecessor Sjoerd Marijne, and the overall approach of the side remains unchanged under her.

"Sjoerd was very aggressive - it was evident even from his manner and his briefings. He instilled in us the ability to be aggressive on the field. "
"Since Janneke joined the camp (as Analytical Coach), both Sjoerd and Janneke used to take turns conducting our training sessions on alternate days."
"So, now that Janneke is the Chief Coach, we haven't changed our approach - it's much the same."

The Dutch women, who are visiting India for the first time, will be keen to carry their winning momentum forward.

A 10-0 win over the USA last Sunday is proof enough that the Netherlands are at their ruthless best. Indian fans may well be looking forward to some riveting action this weekend.

How exactly do the Dutch girls who have won eight World Cups and nine Olympic medals maintain their position at the helm of world hockey?

Interim coach of the Netherlands team, Joost Bitterling, told Sportskeeda:

"There aren't that many foreign players in the Women's League in Holland as compared to the Men's League. We try and identify and groom youngsters with the basic skills."
"At the club level, there is a lot of competition and the basic skills then need to be enhanced. The girls in the current team (Yibbi Jansen and Renee van Laarhoven) also contribute by passing on their expertise to the younger lot."

The Indian women missed out on playing the first two editions of the Pro League. Vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka, however, pointed out that the disappointment of watching the men's team play in the elite tournament has now given way to an enormous sense of pride in taking on the very best in the business.

"We couldn't play in the Pro League before. We used to watch the men's team and wish we could as well. The dream is now a reality and we don’t want to let go of the chance to make our mark."

The Dutch girls are now renowned for thumping the opposition by huge margins but coach Bitterling - who is normally an analyst with the team - feels making memories in India is more important than the scoreline.

"The scoreline is what you see on paper. Creating memories for the girls is more important as is looking back at the India visit."

The matches will be played at the Kalinga Stadium on April 8 and 9.

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Edited by Steffi
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