Belgium wins maiden World Cup twice in one night. Belgium became the sixth nation to win the Men’s Hockey World Cup.
In one night, Belgium did something they had never done before – twice. With 3-2 (0-0) scoreline in shootouts, the Red Lions secure the gold.
The goal-less regulation period was the first in the history of World Cup finals. But in a game where both the sides put up a defensive masterpiece of epic proportions, none deserved to concede, and it happened that way. It was 0-0 at full-time.
The shootout unfolded in a fashion that can give Bollywood its new script. When it seemed the Belgians had won 3-2, technology came to the Dutch rescue. While the red shirts were celebrating in the left corner of the pitch, the video umpire upstairs was checking if the ball hit Arthur de Sloover’s foot. It had. Belgium were asked to cut short their celebrations. Pirmin Blaak, the Dutch goalie, was punching the air. 3-2 became 2-2. It was not over yet.
That sent the game to sudden death. Florent van Aubel beat Blaak to get Belgium ahead. Jeroen Hertzberger couldn’t go past Vincent Vanasch. Now there was no stopping the Belgians. Red became the colour of the day.
Simon Gougnard, who had lost his father on the morning of the semifinal against England, was in tears — and understandably so. Tim Boon’s eyes too welled up. This was the unbelievable moment they couldn’t live in the 2016 Rio Olympics final against Argentina. On Sunday at the Kalinga Stadium, they ensured it wasn’t a miss again. Belgium became the sixth team to win the World Cup.
The victory was also a revenge of sorts — for the 2017 European Championships defeat against the Dutch. The Belgians couldn’t have done it on a bigger stage.
Three-time champions Netherlands had lost the 2014 final to Australia. They will be dejected, but will accept that the better team won.
And Dutch coach Max Caldas couldn’t have expressed that in better words. “First thing is to be good losers,” he said after the match. “Shake the hands, say well done and move on.”
It was a tough match, a lot of ebb and flow. Belgium dominated the first quarter but couldn’t breach the Dutch citadel. When the men in orange upped the ante, the Red Lions displayed their defensive prowess.
Netherlands will rue missing the two penalty corners they earned. Belgium got none.
Such effective were the two defensive structures that forward from both sides struggled to find an opponent’s foot in the circle. It was neat tackling at its best.
One man who was unperturbed during the shootouts was Belgium coach Shane McLeod. Captain Thomas Briels revealed why. “‘It (their victory) is written in the stars’, he (McLeod) had said before the game,” Briels told the media. “Even before the shootout he said it’s written in the stars.”
“It’s been a funny day,” McLeod said. We had spoken pre-game…if the stars were aligned, we will be winning the World Cup.” And the stars were actually aligned.
Belgium’s Arthur van Doren was named the ‘Player of the Tournament’, while the rest of the awards were given to:
Pirmin Blaak (NED): Best goalkeeper
Thijs van Dam (NED): Best junior player
Blake Govers (AUS) and Alexander Hendrickx (BEL): Top scorer award
Spain: Fair play award
Arthur van Doren (BEL): Fans choice award
Australia: Maximum team goals
India: Best team goal celebration
Final Standings of the 16 teams:
9. New Zealand
16: South Africa