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Debutants Amega, Freriks help Netherlands to sail past Croatia

GROUP C REVIEW: The Netherlands used their last game in the preliminary round at the EHF EURO for a few experiments, but the Dutch team still eased past Croatia (34:23) for their third straight win

21-year-old Delaila Amega led Netherlands with eight goals to a win against Croatia on the last preliminary round day in Group C. Mandatory Credit © Uros Hocevar / kolektiff

Already qualified and with no more points for the main round at stake, the Netherlands could afford to try out several variations to their usual line-up against Croatia, their last game in the EHF EURO Preliminary Round.

Still, the Dutch team faced few difficulties in beating Croatia 34:23, with huge contributions from youngsters Delaila Amega (eight goals) and Merel Freriks (five), who both made their debut at a major tournament.

The result did not affect the final standings, as the Netherlands had already been confirmed as group winners while Croatia were out of the race after losing their opening two matches.

Netherlands will open their main round campaign in Nancy on Sunday against the winner of Group D, while Croatia are travelling home after failing to get beyond the preliminary stage at an EHF EURO for the fourth straight time.


Netherlands vs Croatia 34:23 (17:10)

With several key players, like captain Nycke Groot and left back Lois Abbingh, being rested for the entire match, Dutch coach Helle Thomsen put various playing systems and young players to the test.

Charris Rozemalen started as right back instead of Laura van der Heijden, and scored three times in the first 19 minutes. And centre back Lynn Knippenborg, who was only added to the squad on Tuesday, got playing time on the left wing.

The most notable change, however, included 21-year-old centre back Amega and 20-year-old line player Freriks, who are part of a promising upcoming generation of Dutch talents.

Amega was on court for 49 minutes, and felt remarkably well in her first major game for the team. She scored eight times from nine attempts, but also set up others regularly.

Also Freriks, the only line player in the squad, proved she is ready for the job.

The only disappointment for the Dutch team was an injury scare for Maura Visser. The experienced centre back limped off the court after 10 minutes in the first half with an apparent ankle problem and did not return on the court for the rest of the match.

Croatia, boasting a squad with an average age of just over 22, posed no threat to the Dutch victory at any time.

Their defensive weaknesses were exploited by the Netherlands, which got no less than nine penalties, mostly for clumsy defending or players stepping on the line.

written by Eric Willemsen / br