Netherlands upset hosts to make it a perfect triple in Torrevieja

14 Apr. 2024

Netherlands upset hosts to make it a perfect triple in Torrevieja

The 2024 IHF Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #2 came to an end in Torrevieja with a classic European clash between heavyweight nations Spain and the Netherlands.

With both teams already qualified through to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, both sets of players and coaches could have been excused if they did not give 100%.

But it was quite the opposite, with a packed Palacio de los Deportes de Torrevieja providing the best atmosphere in its very last match thanks to the mix of home and Dutch support and maybe it was that ‘extra player’ of the Netherlands’ away support which pushed them to a 27:26 win to make it three wins from three.

Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament #2
Spain vs Netherlands 26:27 (15:15)

Spain coach Ambros Martin opted to replace the experienced and influential Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa with Ester Somaza before the match, brought in third-choice goalkeeper Nicole Wiggins – who has family from the Netherlands – and rotated his squad as he looked to give some important game time to his squad members ahead of what will be a busy summer.

Per Johansson made fewer changes for his Dutch national team, but the handball fans in Torrevieja did get to see Estavana Polman, playing her first game for the national team since her appearance in the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship quarter-final against Norway last December.

But Johansson would have been disappointed with the start from his side, taking a time out with just under 10 minutes on the clock with his side 7:3 behind.

Eventually, the Dutch clawed it back all square, drawing level in the 27th minute (14:14) through Angela Malestein with the winger then putting them ahead moments later for the first time in the match before the home side brought it back and the teams went in level at half-time.

“It's not so often you play in this atmosphere with the national team,” said Johansson after the game. “Spain put a lot of pressure on us in the first half, we came back but then they came again with a way of playing that we had some difficulty with.”

Spain kept pushing on in the second half, buoyed on by their vociferous home fans, complete with live band for the first time, but the Dutch, with their vastly superior on-court experience could not pull away.

The tension kept building, with both defences leading the way in direct contrast to the earlier game at the arena on Sunday which saw 74 goals scored between Czechia and Argentina.

For seven minutes in the last quarter (45th – 52nd minute), Wiggins and Yara Ten Holte stood strong in goal for their respective Spain and Netherlands teams, not conceding, before Spain broke the shut-out to extend their lead to two (25:23, 53rd minute).

In the end it came down to the last 40 seconds as Malestein took advantage of Nikita Van Der Vliet steal, feeding Bo Van Wetering to put her side ahead 27:26, forcing Martin to cut the drama and take a time out.

And after his side fed the ball to Paula Arcos Poveda, Ten Holte stepped up, made the save and the Dutch could celebrate.

“In the last 15 minutes we played really good in defence,” said Johansson. “It was an extremely good experience for us to beat Spain in Spain and close this two weeks together on the road.”

The Dutch party anthem of ‘Links Rechts’ by Snollebollekes once again then sounded out after the final buzzer around the arena, but this time, Spain joined the Dutch players, both squads joining together in celebratory dance after a heated battle for the past 60 minutes to celebrate their joint ticket to Paris 2024.

In the post-match media conference Martin told that his team today “…was the 2028 Spanish team, but they showed that they are ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

The future looks bright for both of these teams, and the handball world – and the players themselves – cannot wait to see what they can do this summer.

“I think sometimes we are much better than we believe ourselves today,” said Ten Holte to after the match. “We kept on fighting to the end and even though we were behind the whole game, we never gave up.

“This fighting spirit just gives us more and more energy and more trust in ourselves and we can reach a lot with this team. We can aim high in the Olympics: we have a dream and we want to achieve that.”

hummel Player of the Match: Nicole Wiggins (Spain)