Australia's Hockeyroos have been given a chastening demonstration of how difficult it will be to strike Olympic gold as the Dutch reigning champions hammered them 6-2 in their latest FIH Hockey Pro League clash in India.
Like every other team who've been trying to get to grips with the brilliant all-conquering Netherlands side, who are now unbeaten in eight games in the league, Australia, the world's No.3 ranked side, were quite outgunned in Bhubaneswar on Friday.
Tatum Stewart, with a penalty corner, and Grace Stewart got on the scoresheet for the Aussies but they were scant consolation amid a ruthless performance from the Olympic champs and league champions, led by hat-trick scorer Marijn Veen.
"Every time they got a goal scoring opportunity, they converted," said Australia captain Jane Claxton.
"Not so much for us, and we have to be a bit more clinical in our circle and put more scoreboard pressure on.
"But they're a great team and they know how to punish you."
It ended a mixed week for the Hockeyroos, who opened up their Bhubaneswar campaign with a dispiriting 3-0 loss to China but then beat both the US and hosts India by the same scoreline.
It leaves them on six points after four matches, third behind China (nine points from four games) and the world no.1 Dutch, who look certain to lift the title again with a maximum 24 points from their eight straight wins already, during which they've racked up a remarkable 43 goals.
It's now five years and six matches since the Hockeyroos last beat a Dutch side which is now dominating the global scene, having won three of the previous four editions of the League.
The Netherlands lead Australia 3-1 in their final #FIHProLeague game in Bhubaneswar.
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— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) February 9, 2024
Two goals in the first nine minutes, including a dazzling reverse stick flick from Veen, quickly put the Dutch in control before the league's top scorer Yibbi Jansen put them further ahead with a penalty corner.
Tatum Stewart's deflected corner gave the Roos some hope before halftime but another converted corner from Jansen in the third quarter put the Dutch out of sight.
Worse was to come when a misplaced Aussie pass helped gift Veen the simplest of fifth goals and she completed her first international treble moments later with a deflected shot.
There was a fine Australian goal in the final quarter, set up by an excellent run from Steph Kershaw, a neat assist from Amy Lawton and a cool finish from Grace Stewart, but it was far too little too late.
The Hockeyroos now get a four-day break, until the next round of matches in Rourkela, India, while the men's Kookaburras launch their League campaign in Bhubaneswar against Spain on Sunday.