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September 29, 2000
It's a funny game, says Dutch coach
Jaideep Singh in Sydney
Dutch coach Maurits Hendriks calls hockey a funny game, and the Sydney Olympic Games have reinforced his belief. Look at the turn of events and which teams are playing the final and you would almost pick up Ripley's 'Believe it or Not'.
"Look the results here have proved that it's a funny game," Hendriks said, conveying the feelings of the born-again Holland and South Korea -- both of whom came back from the brink of elimination owning to shock results that went against other fancied teams in their respective pools.
No one was arguing with Hendriks on this day. His team had seen the clock turn a full circle after starting the Olympic competition as the favourites who were bid goodbye by Pakistan before Germany gave them elbow space.
More than staying on course for Holland's third major title after the 1996 Olympics and the 1998 World Cup, Hendriks was elated that the Dutch had finally reversed the trend of penalty-stroke competitions that had dismayed this hockey-loving nation for years.
For Indians who saw their hopes of winning the 1973 World Cup at Amsterdam being dashed by the cool Dutch stroke takers of the mid-70s this would be a hard fact to digest, but Hendriks had statistics to prove his theory.
"In recent years our penalty-stroke results were only losing ones and we had to bring sports psychologists to work with the boys," he said. "We lost to Pakistan on penalties in the 1994 World Cup final in Sydney and then to Germany in the European Cup the next year."
The credit for shaping the Dutch into deadly penalty-stroke executioners goes to was an English psychologist, John Syer.
"John (Syer) is a wonderful man and a fantastic sports psychologist," said Hendriks. "He turned things around and then we trained seven guys to take penalty flicks.
"I knew that if things came to a penalty shootout, my boys were up to it. But we deserved to win the semifinal during 70 minutes (of regulation time) itself."
Did goalkeeper Ronald Jansen too work with the sports psychologists?
"On the contrary, we made the psychologists work with out goalkeeper," quipped Hendriks.
Holland's captain Stephan Veen said the team went through a tough period which steeled it for the challenge faced in this crunch game.
"The tough period resulted in a mentally strong team that gave us the win on strokes," Veen added.
The Dutch skipper said making the final after having almost given up hopes was like living a dream.
"Its really terrific…after losing to Pakistan (in the pool match) we were quite lost. We wanted to end the competition with a good performance, I never thought it would be the final."
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