Euro Hockey: Netherlands end England women's title hopes

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Sport in Moenchengladbach, Germany

England women's hopes of a European hockey title evaporated as they lost their semi-final 2-0 to a superior Dutch side in Germany on Thursday.

Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel scored an opening tap-in early in the first half and Kim Lammers' deflection killed off a disappointing, disjointed England.

They will now face Spain, defeated 2-1 by Germany, for bronze on Saturday.

"I'm so disappointed. We didn't believe in ourselves or back ourselves. That's a nightmare," said captain Kate Walsh.

"But better now than next year. We're still a young team and in big games like this, we have to look hard at ourselves."

The Netherlands are the reigning European champions in the women's event - and have won a remarkable seven of the nine European Championships held to date - but a surprise defeat at the hands of Spain relegated them to second in their pool, setting up a semi-final against undefeated England.

However, Dirkse van den Heuvel had the simplest of rebounds to dispatch from a Dutch penalty corner as they gave England the run-around in the first half.

A video referral won by England narrowly prevented the Dutch from going in two goals up at the break, as a second penalty corner strike was ruled out for obstruction.

England keeper Beth Storry made a fine one-on-one block as the pressure continued early in the second half, and eventually Lammers broke through the English defence.

There was precious little action at the other end, England earning just one penalty corner of their own and barely registering a shot.

The women exited the tournament at the same stage two years ago and can content themselves with only a bronze medal at best, to be decided on Saturday.

"We finished fourth in 2003 and you don't want to finish fourth. We need to go home with something," said Walsh, who has won four European bronze medals with England in their last five outings at this level.

England's Crista Cullen said: "We've been to a few semi-finals now and come up short.

"We need to understand why - was it psychological? Why did we not all play well today when the pressure was on us?

"You can see by the way the Dutch celebrated, we're a tough team to beat. We've never had that reaction from them before. That's a positive thing for us, but we have to be better.

"I think we've got the time [before London 2012]. If we don't win any other final and we get to a London semi-final and win that, that'll make it all worthwhile."

England's men will hope for better against hosts Germany in their semi-final at 2000 BST on Friday.

They defeated the Germans for the last European title in 2009, but their opponents come into the game with a 100% record from the group stage.

Both teams are fresh from resounding victories - Germany thrashed Russia 7-0 on Wednesday, hours after England hammered France 8-1.