In Valkenswaard, on Pastoor Heerkensdreef, are the four artificial turf pitches of HOD, Hockey Ons Devies. With nearly a thousand members, the club is one of the most flourishing associations in the village. Right there, under the smoke of Eindhoven, Frédérique Matla and Lidewij Welten held a hockey stick for the first time. And now that they’re both international, a story from that time lingers. Welten (31) was Frédérique (24) ‘s nanny for a while. In Tokyo, the two claim the main role.
With Matla, the Dutch team have a striker who continuously scores. She has already scored eight goals in this tournament, and in the last twelve matches she has always been precise for the reigning world champion. Welten is the mentor who has been instrumental in his career from an early age. The seven-year-old forward first played hockey in the first HOD; then she moved to Den Bosch, to later also become a support player with the Dutch team.
And that’s exactly how it turned out with Matla, the enormous talent already passed to Den Bosch as a teenager. The only 24-year-old striker is now part of the furniture of the best club in the Netherlands. Just like Welten: “Yeah, we’ve been going back for a while,” Welten said after the game. “Both of our mothers have played with the veterans, the veterans – and well. I had nothing to do on Saturdays because I was playing the best hockey. This is how I became Frederique’s nanny. And I think you can see from our game that we get along well. You build this over the years.
Shame must be erased
Just before the Games, it was uncertain whether Welten would be able to compete in his fourth Games. In 2008 and 2012 she became Olympic champion, in 2016 she had to settle for money. Welten tore a hamstring tendon nine weeks before the Games, an injury that normally takes a long time to recover. In a race against time, Welten didn’t seem to care too much. “It’s going well,” she laughs. “I have no problem and I feel good. Like the whole team, I grew up in the tournament.
This is how the Orange Women frolic with playful ease. The Netherlands played five group matches in Tokyo and the quarter-finals on Monday. With 21 goals for and only 2 against, the team of national coach Annan shows match after match that the mission of reclaiming the Olympic title in the hands of the Dutch is taken very seriously. Five years ago in Rio, the team lost in the final to Great Britain and that shame must be erased. On Wednesday, the revenge can already be taken against Great Britain, opponents in the semi-final.
Never lost against New Zealand
In the quarterfinals, the Netherlands had little trouble with New Zealand, a team whose women have never lost. At the start of the match, Welten scored 1-0, after a fine action from Laurien Leurink, who managed to reach the goal line. Welten then knocked the ball over with a quick movement. His former compatriot Matla was then right when the Netherlands received a penalty: 2-0. In the third quarter Lauren Stam scored a penalty corner. Stam isn’t someone who scores often, so his goal was exuberantly celebrated by the Netherlands. After the 3-0, the Netherlands still had opportunities to widen the score further, but production came to a halt.
Welten was very happy with the Orange’s performance afterwards. “We played very well, especially in the first half. We started the game nervous anyway, but it slowly subsided. We feel pretty invincible now; in this game, I really felt that we were the better team. It is a pleasant feeling. And Matla: “Sometimes I have to really pinch myself because we’ve already reached the semi-finals. It’s so easy. ”
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