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Veen: We have always been very close to top often (12/11/2018)
--s2h Team
If you think that the likely World Cup quarterfinal between India and the Netherlands at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar will be a clash of contrasting styles you couldn’t be further from the truth. The Dutch for decades have displayed a sublime touch to hockey, proving time and again that bracketing them as a hit-and-run European team is misplaced and unjust.

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The sight of Stephan Veen, now a high performance consultant of the Netherlands federation for the game, reminded one that skill and creativity has been the keynote of the Netherlands pedigree that has produced three World Cup and two Olympic titles.

Veen’s artistry at the forefront of the all-conquering Dutch teams in the last millennium brought two Olympic (Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000) and as many World Cup gold medals (Lahore 1990 and Utrecht 1998). “It’s not going to be a match of different styles,” Veen said at the Kalinga stadium while looking forward to a likely clash against the hosts noted for skill and artistry.

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“Even as a European team we dribble, pass and attack…it’s in our DNA,” said the 48-year-old former captain of the Netherlands.

“And so, against India, it will be an attacking game should we beat Canada and play them in the quarterfinals,” elaborated the hero of the 2000 Sydney Olympic final who, as captain, scored a hat-trick and then the winning penalty in the shootout to help the Dutch beat South Korea and win their second gold at the Games.

Debuting at only 19 years of age, Veen was a member of the Netherlands team that won their second World Cup title at Lahore 1990.

“Being part of a champion team gave me a lot of confidence,” he said as he flashed back to the a spate of titles that the Netherlands clinched in the 1990s.

“We had a skillful team that had a fine balance between attack and defence and most importantly was mentally strong,” Veen said.

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(Pic: Stephen Veen, right) with the Netherlands captain VD Horst at The Hague Word Cup 2014)

In Lahore, he played five out of seven games but watched a dramatic final against Pakistan from the dugout.

“After Shahbaz Ahmed gave Pakistan the lead, the stadium exploded with noise,” he recalled. “But when Floris Jan Bovelander scored two goals from penalty corners, it was absolutely quiet,” Veen said of the final that Netherlands won 3-1.

Should the Dutch make the quarterfinals, they will up against similar odds at the Kalinga stadium where 15,000 vociferous partisan fans make up what India coach Harendra Singh calls his team’s 12th player.

Veen believes that the Dutch would do well to control India beyond the 23-metre line because that’s where the hosts can be dangerous with their skills.

But he has faith in his compatriots’ fine all-round talent in which Sander de Wijn, Sander Baart, Mirco Pruijser, Robbert Kemperman and Billy Baker could trouble India should the Dutch beat Canada in their cross-over on Tuesday.

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Reflecting on the Dutch in the competition so far, Veen found them very good against Malaysia in a 7-0 win.

He felt they were fine against Germany for three quarters in a 1-4 defeat and good against Pakistan who they beat 5-1 after a shaky first quarter.

Veen, who works as a headhunter for a global company dealing in executive search, is married to former Netherlands player Susan van der Wielen and has a son Lucas (15) who is an under-15 national player and daughter Josephine (13) who also plays hockey.

The Dutch are experiencing an 18-year global title drought when it comes to the World Cup and Olympics. “We may not have won titles but we have been very close to the top, finishing second (three times) and regularly in the top four,” Veen said.

With Veen around, the Dutch may just be inspired to find that elusive title-winning touch after striking rhythm in their last pool match in which they scored an impressive 5-1 win over Pakistan to make the cross-overs.

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