WORLD CUP NEWS : Margot van Geffen, a three-time World Cup champion, and Sarah Juggins discuss the Netherlands’ frank assessment of their success in the 2018 FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Spain and the Netherlands in 2022.
After three straight victories, how do you assess the Dutch women’s hockey team’s performance in the 2018 FIH Women’s World Cup?
We were in a different year. Some of the highs were incredible, but there were also some lows. Upon reflection, this has been an incredible experience. We reached our top performance just as the year was winding down. We won the World Cup as a team, and I will always be proud of it.
From the outside, all everyone sees is that you won the last world cup, then you won gold in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and then you won every game in the FIH Hockey Pro League. When you finally got going in the World Cup, did it feel like a great weight was lifted off your shoulders?
Margot van Geffen and Sarah Juggins
It seems likely to me. It was a wild ride since we weren’t at our best this season. We did not play up to our potential or to the level we know is in us. It was disappointing that we couldn’t demonstrate our skill to the globe. Our finest performance came in the World Cup’s final, and now we can continue to improve in preparation for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. And so, sure, that was a relief for us.
Do you believe that the younger members of the squad, with the fantastic blend of new and older players in the team, now understand what it’s like to reach the peak at the World Cup, and is it something that they needed to see to appreciate what it means to play in the Dutch team?
Some young players are breaking into the squad and doing well, but they are also learning quickly that playing for the national team is not without its challenges. The first-time World Cup experience was positive for the eight players. They were able to compete at the top level and win with a team that had a nice balance of young and old.
This finals goal by Felice Albers was classic Dutch ice hockey. It was very amazing how the team’s defensive efforts gave her the confidence to make a breakaway and score.
Every time I watch that, it gives me chills. Tiki-taka hockey was fun to play, and it all started in our own end with a couple of deft touches from Maria and Eva before the puck was passed to Freeke, who in turn passed it to Felice. The target was fantastic. For us, the moment of scoring a goal as a team—after solid defensive work and a concerted offensive push—was a true high point.
It’s common to see the Netherlands start tournaments peacefully, winning by two or three goals, then picking up steam as the competition progresses. Can you say with certainty that you have established a system through which to handle every occurrence?
Sometimes we’ll be up 2-0 or 3-0 early in a tournament and think we should be crushing our opponents, but after every game we sit down and discuss what went well and where we can make improvements for the next. We have faith in our abilities and assure one another that future shows will be more impressive. We’re doing things slow and steady, expanding as the event goes on.
You had the advantage of playing in front of your home crowd in the Netherlands for the first half of the World Cup, and then in Terrassa, Spain, for the second. Can you describe how you feel right now?
What I saw was really unique. For the most part because our home audience is incredible. Each time we on the field, I remember thinking, “This is the nicest thing a player can have.” The support of our loved ones and the enthusiastic Dutch fans who packed the stadiums made for a memorable experience. When we tuned in to watch sports being played in Terrassa, we saw that some of the stadiums weren’t quite packed. The finals, played in front of a sold-out crowd that included supporters from both our team and Argentina, were equally thrilling. Lovely ambiance.
In the other semi-final, Argentina played a fantastic game against Germany. In your opinion, did they reach their top performance level in the match against Germany, or do they appear really rather excellent right now?
We figure we’re more rested and they’re probably exhausted after that heated game, so let’s give it a go. We get a kick out of playing against Argentina. So, in conclusion, we were simply musing to ourselves that we are prepared for this.
We are aware that your former captain, Marloes Keetels, has left his post. If I’m counting correctly, this is your third World Cup victory. Everyone on the stage seemed emotionally invested, but how did the squad feel overall? Was it unique or maybe more significant than usual?
We had a rough year and we spoke a lot, therefore the answer is yes. Even when there weren’t games going on, we were still hanging around and catching up with one other. Because of this, it meant a lot to win the competition; we feel like a much more cohesive unit as a result, and we want to continue to improve as a unit.
What did you do to commemorate the occasion? Was what you guys did that night a typical Dutch party?
Indeed, we did go out to a Barcelona nightclub and continue the celebration till the wee hours of the morning. Therefore, I would say that it was an excellent one.
In that case, what are your plans moving forward? Do you go back to camp or re-join your organization?
We return to our teams for the start of the new season on September 4th, and we begin our preseason training immediately afterwards. We have got our orders and will be returning to our clubs in October to resume national team trainings in time for December’s Pro League matches. Since then, we’ve spent August and September with our respective clubs, and will be returning to our respective national teams’ training camps in October.
You first played for the Dutch national team in 2011, so you’ve been there for nearly a decade. You have been among the very finest for quite some time with the Dutch squad. What keeps you motivated? Is it more about the team or the sport itself? If you’re already at that level, why do you want to remain there?
It’s a hybrid of the two. To me, the best part of being on the team is getting to participate in the process and work toward a common goal with my fellow players. I like it much as a game, too. When I first decided to transfer clubs, I was apprehensive about the potential consequences. However, now that I am with my new club, I feel like a child again, and I am certain that this was the best decision. Being a player and a fan of the game is a dream come true for me.