After reaching the World Cup final, the Dutch handball players did not fully realize what they had achieved in Japan. Thanks to a narrow victory over Russia (33-32), the Netherlands is in the final battle of the global tournament for the second time in history.
"No, I really can't believe it," Estavana Polman stammered into the Ziggo Sport microphone. "Wow, what a competition. We beat the Russians and are just there. Great."
The team of national coach Emmanuel Mayonnade won against Russia, that this World Cup had not yet lost a match and was considered the big favorite, by a hit in the final minute of Laura van der Heijden. Twenty seconds before the end of the match, she hit the spot and crowned an excellent game for the Orange squad.
"The coverage was so good, so was the attack. It just worked, we are just in the final," said Polman. "I don't know how I will wake up tomorrow, but we are there. I am so proud, we have proven that we can do it."
Captain Danick Snelder also told her story in disbelief. "We fought as a team. Really great. It was a neck-and-neck race, we were both super good."
Estavana Polman was the top scorer in the semi-final against Russia with nine hits. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Abbingh takes revenge on coach
For Lois Abbingh, the win over Russia tasted extra good, because she dealt with Ambros Martin in the semi-final. The Spaniard is national coach of the Russians and also club coach of Rostov-Don, whereby he gives Abbingh little playing time.
"This is so bizarre, such an end. I've been looking forward to this for so long, for months," Abbingh said. "This is a dream. We knew in advance that we would not be able to hit Russia in the final. So I thought: if I am there, I will be there."
Abbingh found that the tactical plan of coach Mayonnade had an effect. Because she is a teammate of a large number of Russian internationals at club level, she also had a good idea how to fight the reigning Olympic champion.
"We have been thinking for three days: if we encounter Russia, we will do this. I spent three hours discussing this with Manu. Hats off to the team. We were better as a team. If you have such an energy on this field shows, no one can beat us. We are not ready yet, but we will have a party tonight. "
Second time the Dutch are in World Cup final
It is the second time ever that the Dutch team is in the World Cup final, after losing to Norway in 2015 in the final battle. Even now the Norwegian women can be the opponents in the final, because they will play against Spain in the other semi-final later on Friday.
The final of the World Cup is Sunday at 12.30 pm (Dutch time) and is also played in Kumamoto. At the previous World Cup, two years ago in Germany, the Dutch had to settle for bronze.
If the Dutch team becomes world champion this time, it immediately qualifies for next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo. In the event of a loss, the Netherlands awaits a qualifying tournament in March with Sweden, Senegal and Argentina, in which two Olympic tickets can be earned.