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'India is a great place to be, Van der Weeden will be back for World Cup,' says Dutch coach Max Caldas

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Can Caldas help the Dutch reach their second successive WC final?
Modified 20 Sep 2018, 23:03 IST

Along with Australia and Germany, the Dutch have been one of the most successful hockey nations ever since the 1970s, winning the men's edition of the World Cup thrice.

The Netherlands hosted the second edition of the competition in 1973 and got the better of India in the finals, at Amstelveen, to win their first gold. At Lahore, in 1990, the Orange brigade got the better of Pakistan in their backyard to win their second title.

The Pakistanis tilted the scales in the 1994 finals at Sydney, but the Dutch won their third gold, at home, in Utrecht in 1998.

As hosts in 2014, Paul van Ass' side remained unbeaten in the pool stages and stormed into the finals after getting the better of Argentina, South Korea, Germany, and South Africa, and playing out a draw with New Zealand.

At the Hague, Mink Van der Weeden scored the only goal for his side in the semifinals against England but failed to help his team in the finals as they were annihilated by a 1-6 margin by Ric Charlesworth's Australians.

The Netherlands - home to the best PC specialists of all time

The orange brigade has produced some of the best penalty corner specialists in the world whose exploits have kept the Dutch flag flying high down the years.

The legendary Ties Kruize (who also coached the side during the Delhi World Cup), Paul Litjens, Floris Jan Bovelander, and Taeke Takema have all been feared by their opponents - carrying the baton presently, is Mink Van der Weeden.

At Rio in 2016, Van der Weeden was unstoppable as he scored a brace against Ireland, a hattrick against Canada, and one goal each against Argentina, India, and Australia. The drag-flicker also scored one against Belgium in the semifinals (albeit in a losing cause) and Max Caldas' side went on to win the Olympic bronze beating arch-rivals Germany via a penalty shootout.

The ace drag-flicker was not at Breda when India and the Netherlands played out a virtual semifinal in the Champions Trophy in June. The Indians needed just a draw to progress to the final and that was precisely what they achieved.


The score was tied 1-1 when Jeroen Hertzberger had a goal off a free hit disallowed at the death, since, in the referee's opinion, the ball had not been stopped properly prior to taking the hit.

The Indian camp felt strongly that the decision was indeed the right one but, as a result of the verdict, the eight-time champions failed to fulfill their dream of ending with a flourish in the final edition of the tournament. The Dutch crowd reacted with angst on the day but voiced their support for India in the final against the Aussies.

Coach Max Caldas is philosophical in retrospect when asked what he felt about the incident.

"Don’t have too much to say about umpires. It is their role to blow the whistle and make calls and ours to keep on going."

Argentine defender to Dutch coach

Maximiliano Jorge Caldas, who played for the Argentine national team in the 1990s and represented his country at the 2004 Athens Olympics, has coached the Dutch women who won the gold medal under his tutelage in the 2012 London Olympics.

The Argentine defender tasted further success as a coach when the Netherlands women's team won the gold medal in the 2013 Hockey World League and the 2014 World Cup, and is now looking to replicate the success with the Dutch men's team.


In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, the 45-year-old super coach says he is looking forward to his India trip as he dwells on his team's chances for the World Cup and confirms that Mink van der Weeden will indeed be at Bhubaneswar to execute his lethal drag flicks.

Caldas is not in the least perturbed by the fact that the Dutch find themselves in the Group of Death alongside European neighbors Germany and Asian challengers Pakistan and Malaysia.

"We are confident about the preparations that we will have and have a good idea of what to expect from all 3 teams. That is what we need to do. Topping the group or not is something that we do not talk or worry about now."

"The weather at Bhubaneswar was really good last December"

Cyclone Okchi was advancing towards Odisha in December last year when Bhubaneswar hosted the Hockey World League Final but Caldas says he loved the Odisha weather nonetheless.

"The weather was really good last time around - one bad day of showers, but we loved it, and we always look forward to flying back to India. It is a great place to be."

The Dutch did not do too well in the competition, however, and managed a seventh-place finish after beating England in the classification match but the coach believes there were lots of positives.

"Well, we did what we wanted to do taking into account the time of the year, the choices that we made with our selection, and the way that we prepared for it. A lot of positive things came out of it for our program, despite finishing in the lower part of the draw."


"India has always maintained their dangerous weapons"

The Netherlands and India share a long and intense rivalry and have played each other 105 times with the Dutch coming out on top 48 times. The Indians have won 33 of those encounters but have yet to beat Holland in the World Cup having lost 6 times which includes the 1-2 defeat in the Hague in 2014.

More recently, Max Caldas' side beat the Indians in the HWL in London last year but managed a 1-1 draw in June at Breda - so does Caldas feel the Indians have now improved?

"Every game has its own little secrets and things to look out for. We don’t compare them as each is played under different circumstances and with different players. India has always maintained their dangerous weapons, and they are a very good side."

At Breda, the hosts lost to Argentina in the opener but came back to thrash Belgium and Pakistan before losing to eventual gold-medalists Australia. Following the India match, the hosts turned the tables on Argentina in the bronze-medal encounter, and Caldas feels the boys did a good job considering that they had just a couple of weeks to prepare.

"I was very happy (with the performance). We only prepared for 2 weeks, had some injuries before that during club season too, and the boys responded very well to different challenges like losing game 1 and coming back very strongly in game 2, etc."

So, can the Dutch enter their second successive World Cup final and hopefully aim for their fourth title this year?


Caldas is pragmatic about his team's chances at Bhubaneswar but replies emphatically in the affirmative when asked if Van der Weeden will be back.

"Yes, for sure. He (Van der Weeden) has recovered from his foot operation and is getting ready with us, and his club team.

"There are 6-8 teams that could win the World Cup, I reckon. We hope we can be one of them, and we are preparing for it too. Having said that, we understand that losing games is part of the equation when the favorite teams are so close to each other, so every day will be very important to be at your best."

Published 20 Sep 2018, 23:03 IST
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