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NED/NETHERLANDS

From a distant 1949 and their participation in the first World Championship event, where they came 10th, the Netherlands had to wait until the beginning of the ‘90s to celebrate success in international Volleyball.

The wait, however, was well worth it: In 1992, at the Barcelona Olympic tournament, the ‘Orange team’ won the silver medal, bowing only to the Brazilians, while four years later in Atlanta they climbed one step higher and wore the Olympic gold medal on their chests.

It was a wonderful time for Netherlands Volleyball and all their fans. That same year, 1996, the armada of the great coach Joop Alberta, who took up the baton from the legendary Arie Selinger, also won the World League title, with the final round held in Rotterdam. One year later (1997) at another event they hosted, this time in Eindhoven, they climbed up onto the top step of the podium at the European Championships.

In the meantime, there was, in 1994, the silver medal at the World Championships in Athens, the city which the Dutch (no. 12 in the world rankings) will visit precisely ten years later with the fondest of memories.

It is a great omen but this Netherlands side, which is full of talent, really needs to be on top of their game to cause a repeat. Although all the individual stars, who claimed gold at the Atlanta Olympics – Rob Bontje, Reinder Nummerdor, Mike van de Goor and Nico Freriks are all there, the Netherlands are just lacking the final cutting edge.

Coach Bert Goedkoop (the former coach of the Netherlands’ national women’s team) is a shrewd leader and if anyone can get this team firing on all cylinders in an attempt to follow the path to glory cleared by their predecessors, the ‘90s team, it is him. The Netherlands qualified for the Athens Olympic tournament by defeating Spain, Cuba and Cameroon in Madrid, but now the official race for gold starts.