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16/12/2016

Netherlands reach maiden EHF EURO final

MATCH REVIEW: Helle Thomsen’s Dutch squad beat her native country's team 26:22 in the ‘battle of the Danish coaches’ to qualify for their first ever European Championship Final

Photo: Uros Hocevar

Estavana Polman scored seven goals, Cornelia ‘Nycke’ Groot added six and Tess Wester racked up 11 saves as the Netherlands qualified for their first EHF EURO Final in history with a 26:22 win against Denmark.

On Sunday, the Netherlands will meet either Norway or France, who are to face each other in the second semi-final later on Friday. Denmark were denied in their effort to make their first final in 12 years, and will play for the bronze medal against the losing team in the other semi-final.

Groot was awarded the best player of the match, while Stine Jorgensen led disappointed Denmark with six goals. With one game to play Jorgensen is now only five goals shy of Romania's Cristina Neagu, who leads the top scorers' ranking with 46.

“We played as a team, and it is great to be back in this team. We have such a great spirit, fight for each other and deserved to go the final. Now I dream to win the final," said Maura Visser after the game.

Visser had not been part of the team for several years but was nominated again by new head coach Helle Thomsen.

Dutch goalkeeper Tess Wester put it straight forward: "We kicked some ass for the second 30 minutes, this was the reason we won."

Before the opening throw-off Denmark were clearly winning the contest of supporters in Scandinavium Arena, but it was the Netherlands who set the pace of the game in the first half. And, as expected from arguably the fastest teams at the EHF EURO 2016, they set it very high.

After a shaky and nervous start, Helle Thomsen's team stormed to a quick 2:0 lead and, though the Danes responded in no time, they were chasing their opponents through most of the first half. The brilliant game between two teams with an extremely attractive display of handball lived up to the highest expectations.

The Netherlands lost two two-goal leads before half-time as Klavs Bruun Jorgensen's side always found an answer to the lightning-fast attacks and seven-on-six power plays of the ‘Oranje’, which saw their goalkeeper Tess Wester spend almost five minutes off the court. When Wester was in the goal she pulled out a handful of incredible saves, as did her Danish counterpart Sandra Toft.

The EURO Semi-final debutants romped ahead to another advantage right after the break and this time they took Denmark by surprise, propelling to a six-goal lead while holding their rivals scoreless for almost 15 minutes. Denmark’s top scorer Stine Jorgensen finally ended her team's drought from a penalty line, but the Dutch were still able to increase their cushion to seven goals at 21:14.

Denmark refused to give in and climbed back to 17:21 with three unanswered goals, forcing Thomsen to stop the tide with a time-out. But from that moment on, Denmark failed to maintain the momentum as the Netherlands safely completed their quest.

The Dutch team won only their second match against Denmark in 10 encounters and were victorious over the Scandinavian nation for the first time at the EHF EURO.

written by Vlado Brindzak / cg