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06/04/2019 08:16
Dutch men’s national team climbing its way back to the top
CEV EuroVolley 2019 Men

Utrecht, Netherlands, April 6, 2019. Almost everyone knows the legendary Dutch men’s Volleyball team from Atlanta 1996, the very first to claim the nickname ‘Lange Mannen’ (Tall Men). Coming from the exceptional ‘Bankras’ training hall, the project started in the late eighties culminated in Olympic gold for players like Ron Zwerver, Peter Blangé, Bas van de Goor and their coach Joop Alberda. Their gold medal match was chosen as sports moment of the century in their home country.

The success kept on for another year, as the ‘Lange Mannen’ claimed the 1997 European Championship title, when the tournament took place in the Netherlands. The Dutch managed to qualify for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, but have not made it to the Olympics ever since. The 2002 World Championships were one of their last major global competitions before last year the ‘Oranjes’ finished the competition held in Italy and Bulgaria in eighth place. As for EuroVolley, they even missed out on qualification for the 2011 edition co-hosted by Austria and Czech Republic.

Never again was the objective in the Netherlands. In order to get back to the Olympic level, something that related to the Dutch principle sparked in ‘Bankras’ had to come back to the Volleyball team. This meant working very hard during the club season, as well as the international one. Players competing in the big leagues had to play for the national team again, and results had to follow, otherwise returning to the Olympic arena was going to be very hard.

Gradually over the years, the level was on the rise again. Through winning the European League in 2012, the Netherlands qualified for the FIVB World League. From 2013 on, the team was present at every edition of the European Championship and for the first time in 16 years, they were a contender in the World Championship last year in Italy and Bulgaria where they managed to secure an eighth place by beating reigning Olympic champions Brazil along the way.

Nimir Abdelaziz (far right) is the current superstar of the Dutch national team, aka the 'Lange Mannen'

Together with the rise of the national team, players have been signing contracts in bigger leagues every year. For instance, this year five of the Dutch are playing in the Italian Superlega. Captain Nimir Abdelaziz, having converted from setter to opposite, is one of the stars of Revivre Axopower MILANO. Maarten van Garderen has won the Club World Championship and the CEV Cup this season with TRENTINO Itas. Opposite Sjoerd Hoogendoorn made his Champions League semi-final debut just last Wednesday for Sir Colussi Sicoma PERUGIA, who already won the Italian Cup and finished first in the regular season. Setter Wessel Keemink and young talent Luuc van der Ent play for Azimut Leo Shoes MODENA, a team that featured in the 2019 CEV Volleyball Champions League and ended fourth in the regular season of the Italian league.

Wouter ter Maat is a contender for the Turkish title with Fenerbahce, while Jeroen Rauwerdink played the CEV Cup semi-final and finished the regular season with Olympiacos PIRAEUS on top of the chart in Greece. Thijs ter Horst has just finished his third season in the Korean League, playing for the DAEJEON Samsung Bluefangs. Robbert Andringa plays in the Polish PlusLiga and both setter Daan van Haarlem and libero Just Dronkers have been able to get a taste of the Champions League this season.

After the great work of head coach Gido Vermeulen, the Dutch will now rely on Italian expert Roberto Piazza to develop even further. The plan seems to be working, every year more players are moving to bigger leagues. The level of the national team is on the rise, resulting in the 15th place on the World ranking and 9th in Europe. The Olympic Qualification Tournament to be held in Rotterdam in August and EuroVolley 2019 with the Dutch playing the pool phase (and possibly the eight and quarterfinals) in their own country are the highlights of the Volleyball summer. Will the ‘Lange Mannen’ return to the Olympic stage in Tokyo next year?

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