As Mixed Pool C begins to heat up, two teams in the hunt for a comfortable place in the top eight come bracket play, Sweden and The Netherlands, faced off. Before the game, NED had only a single loss to the United States while the Swedes came up short against a fluid Italian side earlier in the day.
With a game against the USA still to play in the evening, Sweden knew that they need to pull a win out of the bag or else face a much tougher route to the quarter-finals. The Netherlands had impressed in most of their prior games, putting away seven against the North American giants, so this was set to be a tense one.
Sweden came out of the traps quickly, getting a big D and securing the first break less than a minute into play. Netherlands put their first score home on the second time of asking in a point with lots of turns to tie it at 1-1. After two more points filled with turnovers due to high defensive pressure, Sweden broke again to go up 3-1. With the early pressure building on the Dutch outfit, up stepped both their offence and defence, especially from the female players. With Inger Janssen scoring twice in a row and strong plays from Justine van der Meulen, the two sides were all squared up again at 3-3.
It was notable by this stage that spectators were seeing two teams with very strong female players. Whether on O or D, a lot of the big plays seemed to come from the ladies as we saw battles between players like goal-machine Sarah Ekland and Marieke Buijs while the silky inside breaks of NED’s Lisa Kouwenberg were a joy to watch.
Despite these hotly contested points, the game looked to tilt in the favour of Sweden just before half time as they hit three on the trot to go 6-3 up. After the quick endzone flip, Netherlands stopped the rot by breaking back, once again allowing their girls to run the show. This couldn’t start a run going however as Sweden shook off any signs of a second break thanks to some hard work from Simon Akerling, one of their seasoned receivers who showed he has great handling capabilities, give-going up the field before dishing a score to Eklund.
Soon, the Netherlands found themselves 8-4 down as they couldn’t slot home their Os or capitalise once they garnered the turn. Despite their great defensive pressure, it was their offence that lacked when it mattered most as sloppy decisions began to bleed into the match. With this, there were a number of calls as tensions began to rise between the two teams. Fouls on the mark and contentious pick calls started to turn a really great game slightly sour.
As the game died out, Sweden killed off any signs of a comeback for The Netherlands, taking the game 11-6. Despite some of the calls in the latter end of the match, it was a great affair between the two teams. The result now bumps the Swedes ahead of NED into third with two games to go in the pool.
By Aidan Kelly.