Water polosters for the first time since historical title in 2008 to Games | NOW



The water polosters qualified for the Games for the first time since the historic 2008 Olympic title on Saturday. The Dutch women defeated Greece 7-4 (1-2, 2-2, 2-2 and 2-0) in the semi-finals of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Trieste and thus grabbed a ticket for Tokyo.

After the water poles surprised Beijing with Olympic gold thirteen years ago, the Netherlands painfully missed qualifying for London and Rio de Janeiro in 2012 and 2016.

The pressure in the run-up to Saturday’s deciding game against Greece was therefore great, but this time the Dutch did not go under. The Greek women were still ahead with 3-4 in Trieste, but the team of national coach Arno Havenga fought back nicely, after which the discharge was great. Maud Megens scored three times.

The Orange, which has been among the world top for years, will play the final battle of the OKT against the winner of Italy-Hungary on Sunday, but nothing is at stake anymore. A final place was enough to make it to Tokyo. It is the third time that the water polosters participate in the Games. At the first participation, in 2000 in Sydney, fourth place was the end result.

Water polo is the fourth team sport in which the Netherlands will be represented in Tokyo. Earlier the football players, the handball players and the hockey men and women qualified.

Goalkeeper Willemsz excels at Orange

At the OCT in Trieste, the water polosters prove that a medal is possible in Tokyo. The 2018 European champion did not lose a single game in the Italian city and against Greece the figures were convincing 7-4. Orange thus took the last chance. Havenga’s team had four chances to qualify for Tokyo. It all didn’t work out via the World League, the World Cup and the European Championship and so everything came back to the OKT.

In the decisive semi-final against Greece, the Netherlands got off to a flashy start. Within half a minute, Megens made 1-0 from a penalty throw, but after that the Orange had difficulty finding holes in the Greek defense.

After the first period, Havenga’s team faced a 2-1 deficit and when Greece came to 3-1 at the start of the second period, the Orange seemed to have lost grip on the game for a while. Goalkeeper Debby Willemsz prevented the gap from getting really big with a few saves.

Willemsz, who retired from the Orange squad in 2019 due to motivation problems but reversed that decision later that year, gave the team confidence again. Brigitte Sleeking and Simone van de Kraats tied the score again (3-3), but six seconds before the end of the second period, Greece took the lead again.

When it was really necessary and the pressure was on, the Dutch water polosters showed their class. The outstanding Willemsz turned out not to pass after the break and through goals from Megens (two), Sabrina van der Sloot and Van de Kraats, the Orange team won the much-desired Olympic ticket.

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