Winning streak continues: Dominating Dutch still reign in korfball

Once again the trophy is lifted by the orange squad. At the World Championships Korfball in Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) the Netherlands were at their best, winning seven matches with a very large margin. They are the undisputed kings and queens of the mixed gender sport. Since the World Games of 1993 they have not lost one single official international match, which must be one of the longest winning streaks in sport. In Taipei they won their eight world title in a row.

The final between The Netherlands (orange) vs. Taiwan (yellow) in a crowded Taipei Gymnasium.

Captain Daan Preuninger is lifting the trophy, his mate Olav van Wijngaarden is uncorks the champagne. After the final against host country Taiwan it’s time for a Dutch party, again. The Netherlands is the only country in the world where korfball – a sport invented by a Dutchman at the beginning of the 20th century, with some similarities to basketball – is a professional sport. The players are (semi-)pro’s, supported by the government (sports body NOC*NSF). Their national competition, the Korfbal League, is by far the best in the world, which is why they are individually challenged every week, over and over again.

Improve own game

They knew they were gonna win, everyone knew they were gonna win. Coach Jan Niebeek: “We want to challenge ourselves. In the first matches of the tournament we have set goals as a team and we want to improve our own game. All with the goal to show our best game in the final.” The 27-9 victory over Taiwan is the score with the biggest difference in a final of the world championship ever. After the first minutes of the match though, it wasn’t that clear it would be a walk in the park for the Dutch. One of their key players of Taiwan, Ya-Wen Lin, score the first goal after 32 seconds. The crowd loved it and was hoping for a big sensation or at least a tight match. With the rhythm of a huge drum and enthusiastic cheers of everyone in the Taipei Gymnasium, packed with over 1500 fans, the atmosphere was incredible.

But after a couple of minutes all hopes were gone. The Netherlands showed what they are capable of and quickly intensified their game. In korfball you have to be both attacking and defending player, changing sides after every two goals. The Dutch started scoring more and kept their defense tight. After the first quarter the score was 7-3, at half time everyone knew the match was over: 16-5.

Olav van Wijngaarden, scoring 5 goals in the final.
Captain Daan Preuninger lifting the trophy once again.

“For the neutral fans it would be much more fun if the match is tight,”, says Van Wijngaarden. “We realize that, but in fact: we don’t care. We want to be the best, show the world what we are capable of.” Jessica Lokhorst, hailed by her coach as the best defender in the world: “I had goosebumps all over when Taiwan scored and the crowd went insane. This is what we want, it meant we were awake straight away and had to give full power in the first quarter. But to win with such high level of play in this kind of atmosphere, that is special.”

Better Together

With 24 competing countries it was the biggest world championships ever held. The level of the game isn’t that high in for example Brazil or the Philippines, but the sport has other goals as well. The message of gender quality (korfball is played with four male and four female players in one team) and the slogan ‘Better Together’ points out that the quality of the game isn’t the only important thing of korfball. And if you rule out the reigning Dutch, the level of the teams coming behind the Netherlands is increasing and slowly levels with each other. Czechia, Surinam (with all Dutch players) and Portugal were among the pleasant surprises of the tournament.   

Taiwan and Belgium, who lost in a thrilling semi-final (21-19) of the host country, are the main challengers of the Netherlands and are searching for ways to beat the rulers of korfball. They must find their A-level quick, otherwise the winning streak goes on and on and on.

Brett Zuijdwegt in the semi-final match against Czechia.