EURO MIXED TEAMS 2011 – Dutch squeeze through!

With controversy continuing to follow the Dutch team around off court, the Netherlands managed to put all that behind them and do what needed to be done on court to […]

With controversy continuing to follow the Dutch team around off court, the Netherlands managed to put all that behind them and do what needed to be done on court to secure their quarter-final spot with a 3-2 victory over Switzerland.

By Mark Phelan.  Photos:  Badmintonphoto (Live in Amsterdam)

All week, the talk has been about the Dutch team (pictured right) and the continuing running saga of their top singles players being omitted from the national team due to contractual obligations. And all things being considered this is a weakened Dutch side with their omission.

But on the TV court today, and with a huge burden of pressure to deliver a quarter-final berth, the Dutch players rallied and battled their way to a deserved 3-2 victory over Switzerland. This was a winner-take-all match and after the Dutch surrendered the men’s singles and women’s singles to the Swiss, they needed to call on their doubles strengths to deliver the victory.

At two matches each, the fate of each team went down to the wire and it fell on the shoulders to Lotte Jonathans and Pauline Van Dooremalen (pictured top left) to guide the Dutch through to the quarter-finals. The world number 12 pairing were exactly what the Dutch needed at the tail end of the draw and it was their experience that guided the home team over the line and into the quarter-final in two tight sets over Jeanine Cicognini and Sabrina Jaquet (main article image).

“There has been some pressure on us this week but we work well as a team and also we have a good mix of experienced and young players and it is good for them to see who a team event works. In the last match Lotte and I knew we had to win and yes it was tense so I just tried to focus on that one match and nothing else. We won and now we move on to face Russia with confidence and if we all play well we can cause an upset,” said Pauline Van Dooremalen after the Dutch victory.

In another winner-take-all group battle, the French, minus Pi Hongyan due to injury, overcame the tough challenge from Scotland to advance to the quarter-finals. Again, after sharing the spoils in the opening four matches, the fate of each nation hung on the final women’s doubles match. In a match that lasted an hour, there was really nothing to choose between the teams but it was the French who held their nerve to crawl over the line with a three-game win as Laura Choinet and Audrey Fontaine (pictured) defeated Emma Mason and Jillie Cooper. As the dust settles on Group 6, the difference between the two top teams was just one game over three days of competition.

The biggest upset of the day came as Bulgaria defeated an under par Ukraine with a mixture of good play and clever team selection.  Ukraine, seeded in this tournament, looked so balanced on paper but Bulgaria were up to the challenge and after Linda Zechiri defeated Larisa Griga, the two players only separated by 2 spots on the world rankings, the writing was on the wall for the Ukrainian team.  At 2-2, another tie came down to the women’s doubles and Bulgaria – with Petya Nedelcheva selected at doubles rather than singles – were always going to be favourites. The Bulgarians delivered and in creating a little bit of history advance to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

Denmark, as expected, also eased through to the quarter-finals with a 4-1 win over Czech Republic and Russia defeated Sweden by a similar score line. The Danes, however, will most likely bring in all their big guns from the remainder of the tournament, which is testament to their domination in Europe.  Poland were also dominant in Group 8 and have been sailing along under the radar to reach the quarter-finals untroubled. Germany also used the group stages as a warm-up journey to the quarter-finals and are the only team that reach the last 8 with a clean 5-0 sweep in all their three group matches.

Finally, Ireland were unable to match the English in the Group 3 decider as Rajiv Ouseph (pictured) gave the English the perfect 2-game start against their near neighbours. Chloe Magee did retain her 100% women’s singles record over Sarah Walker to level the tie at 1-1 but the English were just too strong down the order in the doubles events and cruised into the quarter-final with a 4-1 victory.

The quarter-final line-up is as follows:

Denmark vs. Poland
England vs. Bulgaria
The Netherlands vs. Russia
France vs. Germany

For continued live streaming available in Europe click HERE and for all results click HERE

About Mark Phelan