It was a case of deja vu at the 2017 EuroHockey Championships as the top four men's teams played out identical fixtures with identical outcomes to the women's matches 24 hours earlier. The final placings saw the same six teams finish in the same order in the men's and women's competitions.
First England played Germany in a bruising and absorbing encounter for the bronze medal, while Belgium and Netherlands put on a thrilling display to decide on the gold medal.
The Netherlands needed all their resolve and talent to turn around a 2-0 deficit as Belgium raced to a 2-0 lead by half-time, but a special goal from Robbert Kemperman signalled an Oranje revival and the crowd at the Wagener Stadium were in for a treat as the two best teams in European men’s hockey went toe to toe for the title. In the bronze medal match, England were able to emulate their women’s team by taking bronze at the expense of Germany, while Spain took fifth place after beating Poland 2-1 and Ireland sent Austria to join Poland into the 2019 Trophy competition as they held on for a 2-2 draw.
Belgium vs Netherlands 2-4
Goals from Tom Boon and Cedric Charlier gave the Red Lions a 2-0 lead at half-time and it seemed that the team ranked fifth in the Hero FIH World Rankings was on its way to another imperious win.
The Netherlands needed something special to get them back in the tie and it arrived seven minutes into the second half when Sander de Wijn’s diagonal overhead was picked up by Kemperman, who smashed the ball home on the volley. The equaliser came from a Mink Van der Weerden drag-flick, which rebounded off the crossbar back into play. Mirco Pruijser was on hand to scramble the ball home.
It was van der Weerden’s turn later as his drag flick flew into the right-hand corner of the goal to make it 3-2. Pruijser then completed the victory in the last minute as the Belgians withdrew their goalkeeper in favour of a kicking back. The Amsterdam man exchanged passes with Thierry Brinkman before sliding into the open goal and a 4-2 win with 17 seconds to go.
Sander de Wijn, speaking to EHF’s Stephen Findlater said: “Most of the people at half-time wouldn’t give us any chance, especially after our 5-0 defeat in the group stage. We needed a moment to reopen the game and, in the end, amazing.
“It was a great season after a disappointing Olympics. We’ve started something new, kept faith in ourselves and structure and proved we can handle the pressure. Especially for the young guys, their first major tournament, there was a lot of pressure on them and they performed really well.”
Germany vs England 2-4
This was an end-to-end game that was fast-paced and exciting, but in the end, two goals in the closing minutes saw England cross the line as winners, emulating the England women’s team who had won bronze the day before, also against Germany. It was England’s first major medal since 2011.
The first quarter saw plenty of action but no goals as both ‘keepers – George Pinner and Tobias Walter – were on the top of their games. Mats Grambusch opened the scoring with a deflected corner but the lead was nullified a few minutes later by Barry Middleton, who scored in similar fashion. England took the lead through Ian Sloan and went into the half-time break ahead.
Germany equalised again as Lukas Windfeder scored his fifth goal of the tournament but England’s lead was re-established through Mark Gleghorne as he swept home a pass from David Ames.
In search of an equaliser, Germany removed their goalkeeper for the last few minutes and England capitalised as they broke from defence and Phil Roper slotted into an empty net to secure the game and the medal.
Spain vs Poland 2-1
Spain finished their EuroHockey campaign on a high by winning 2-1 against Poland and securing fifth place. The goals came from Alvaro Iglesias and Josep Romeu, while Pawel Bratkowski reduced the deficit with three minutes to go.
Marc Salles said of the tournament: “We needed to win because it’s important to finish fifth and to do better than the last time in 2015. We had a hard group with Holland and Belgium, the best teams in the competition. Now, we look forward to the final of the World League and, more so, the World Cup.”
Ireland vs Austria 2-2
Austria threatened to snatch a dramatic late win to keep their European top level status but ultimately their 2-2 draw with Ireland meant they are relegated along with Poland. Ireland, in the meantime, have retained their place in the top tier, courtesy of goals from Alan Sothern and Shane O’Donoghue.
It was far from an easy ride for the Irish as Michael Korper gave Austria the lead within five minutes of the game starting. Ireland fought back and took the lead but a late surge from Austria saw Korper score his second and, with 20 seconds to go, Dominic Uher had a chance to win the tie but the ball slipped from his control and the Ireland players breathed a sigh of relief.
Ireland will now contest the top tier in 2019 with Austria dropping back down to the Trophy competition.
Player of the Tournament: Arther van Doren (BEL)
Under-21 Player of the Tournament: Jorrit Croon (NED)
Goal of the Tournament: Robbert Kemperman (NED)
Top scorer: Mirco Pruijser (NED)
Best Goalkeeper: Vincent Vanasch (BEL)