EuroHockey 2013: England lose to Netherlands in bronze play-off

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Olympic sports reporter in Boom, Belgium
EuroHockey 2013: England 2-3 Netherlands

Jeroen Hertzberger's hat-trick condemned England to defeat by the Netherlands and fourth place at EuroHockey 2013.

Goals from Iain Lewers and Richard Smith gave England a 2-1 lead, but two goals in five second-half minutes handed the Dutch a 3-2 win.

Fourth is the worst European finish in six years for England's men.

"It's a new team but it doesn't give us excuses to say fourth is OK," said England captain Barry Middleton.

"We want a medal, we want to be in the final, that's what we're striving for. It's a long bus trip back tonight."

Team-mate Alastair Brogdon told BBC Sport: "Today the Netherlands were there for the taking.

"Yes, they got a silver medal at the Olympics, and yes, we are a bit of a new squad learning as we go along. But we felt we were in a good position and I really think we had a great chance to beat them today."

Germany, whose women beat England to win gold on Saturday, claimed gold after they beat Belgium 3-1 in the final.

Tom Boon opened the scoring for the hosts but goals from Martin Zwicker, Benjamin Wess and Oliver Korn saw Germany successfully defend their title.

England's men were the surprise European champions four years ago when they beat Germany 5-3 in the final, then finished third in 2011.

This year they went down 3-0 to Belgium in the last four, but England had always insisted that reaching the semi-finals was their main ambition.

Many top English players retired after playing for Team GB at London 2012, where they also finished fourth, and this squad contains a number of inexperienced new faces.

They could, however, have taken a medal from Sunday's bronze play-off against Olympic silver medallists Netherlands.

England's defensive tenacity and clinical finishing paid off in the first half.

Lewers's goal, in particular, stunned Dutch goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann from an acute angle after Hertzberger's penalty-corner strike had put England behind.

Smith's cleanly struck penalty corner gave England a half-time lead slightly against the run of play, but rewarded a half spent tirelessly chasing down and blocking the Dutch.

That defensive wall crumbled within minutes of the restart as Hertzberger lanced a second penalty corner through keeper George Pinner's legs, then slapped in a third before England's back line could draw breath.

Adam Dixon missed an open goal two minutes before time as England fought in vain to carve out any other clear scoring opportunities.

"We've had a few too many of these where we've ended up fourth," said Middleton, who captained Team GB to fourth at London 2012.

"It's such little things. The first half was about fair but they had a good spell for 10 minutes in the second half and took their chances in that. When we had our good spells, we didn't take the chances.

"Our individual defence was brilliant all over the pitch [but] that spell in the second half, they had a bit of a run on us. It's really disappointing to not quite get over the line."