In the first half against Spain it did not look like this EHF EURO game was going to be Lois Abbingh’s match.
But it was.
Dutch coach Helle Thomsen started the important Group C encounter on Monday night with Estavana Polman on the left back position, giving Abbingh just 10 minutes on the court.
But Abbingh’s time to shine was to come. Even though she played only 23 minutes in total, the Rostov-Don back firmly put her stamp on the game.
She scored a perfect six goals from six attempts, including a thundering long-range free throw past Silvia Navarro just before the final buzzer, handing the Netherlands a 28:27 win and top spot in the group.
After the match, ehf-euro.com caught up with Abbingh to talk about the psychology of a last-second free throw.
ehf-euro.com: The Netherlands led by three goals at half-time, but were two down with just over four minutes left. Was panic setting in?
Lois Abbingh: No, no one was panicking. Well, there was a little bit of stress, yes. But we still had a few minutes, we had all the time. We have seen those situations many times before. I'm really proud of the team because we were behind in the last minutes and it's really hard to fight back like this. But we did it and it's really important for us. Mentally, it's important to know that even when they are ahead by, I think, three goals, we can still come back and win.
ehf-euro.com: Let’s zoom in on those last 15 seconds. Spain had just equalised, you had time for one final attack to grab the victory. Did you know exactly how the team was going to get you in a shooting position?
Abbingh: Yes. We have trained for this and played the move a few times. We also played it against Hungary [in an EHF EURO Qualifier] in March. So I knew what was coming. But Spain stepped out of the defence and then you got this free throw with two seconds left. But maybe that was just very nice.
ehf-euro.com: You preferred a free throw from distance with all the Spaniards lining up in front of you?
Abbingh: It was okay as I knew the keeper couldn’t see anything as there were six players in front of her. So I thought, when I just shoot as hard as possible over their block, I hope it will be a goal. It was a matter of ‘close your eyes and shoot’.
ehf-euro.com: What was your final thought before pulling the trigger?
Abbingh: The good thing is that there was no time to really think about it. You just have to go for it. It was a very special situation. Those balls from long range don’t go in very often. It’s nice of course that this time it went in.
ehf-euro.com: The L’Axone arena erupted when your free throw hit the net. What was your feeling?
Abbingh: I was so excited! So many things happened in the last minute. Spain were really strong and one point would have been fair. But getting those two points can be really important for us for the rest of the tournament.