(Reuters) - The Netherlands launched their campaign for a third consecutive women’s Olympic gold in hockey on Sunday with a decisive 5-0 win against Spain.
The reigning world champions are keen to stamp their dominance on the Rio Games after taking home gold medals from Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
At the top of the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) global rankings, the Netherlands have an impressive selection of world-class talent to draw on, boasting four FIH Players of the Year in their squad.
Indeed, no Dutch player at Rio has actually lost a women’s hockey match at the Olympics since 2004 when they conceded the gold medal position to Germany in Athens.
“It’s special and it also brings some responsibility,” said Dutch forward Ellen Hoog, commenting on her team’s success.
“We are going for gold and a lot of people expect it from us and we expect that from ourselves. So that brings a lot of pressure.”
But a loss to world No.2 Argentina in the final of the Hockey Champions Trophy in London earlier this year showed the Dutch women are not invincible.
Another obstacle will be the new tournament format which will include quarter-finals for the first time in Rio, meaning the Netherlands will have to battle through an extra round of knock-out competition to have a shot at the gold.
Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Andrew Hay