Bhubaneswar: Belgium could probably be left to rue the goal that was disallowed as it was scored after the final hooter had gone off as they powered to a 5-1 win over South Africa in their final Pool C encounter of the Hockey World Cup here on Saturday.
The margin of victory, however, meas that India now has to just beat Canada to top the group and qualify for the quarterfinals.
Having managed to hold India with a late goal, Belgium needed to beat South Africa by a big margin to put pressure on the hosts. But the Olympic champions had a disastrous start as they conceded a goal in the very first minute.
Just 30 seconds into the game, South Africa beat Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch when an unmarked Nicholas Spooner, after receiving a cross from outside the 23-metre line, unleashed a drive from the edge of the circle that rocketed into the top left corner of the Belgian net.
Ruffled by the early goal, the Belgians invaded the South African circle, applying a full press, desperately looking for an equaliser. The pursuit ended in the 14th minute, when Alexander Hendrickx drag-flicked the ball into the South African net off Belgium’s first penalty corner.
Nduduza Lembethe sprinted from the 23-metre line diagonally, dodged a defender and threatened to help South Africa score their second goal, just before the first quarter’s end. But his pass from the edge of the circle found none of his teammates.
Three minutes into the second quarter, the South African defence conceded another goal. Simon Gougnard received a pass that split two South African defenders on the way from the 23-metre line. From the right flank, he smashed a low-drive into the left corner of the South African net.
Hendrickx got another chance to flaunt his drag-flick skills, four minutes later when Belgium got another penalty corner. This time, he flicked the ball to the right of the South African ‘keeper Rassie Pieterse.
The Belgians, by now, were dominating. Seconds before half-time, Loick Luypaert slotted in Belgium’s fourth goal of the evening off another penalty corner, evoking a silent fist-pump from his coach Shane McLeod.
In the second quarter, they had better possession, thrice the circle entries of South Africa (3), and six shots on goals.
In the fourth quarter, Gougnard bulldozed past the defenders from the right flank to feed the ball to Cedric Charlier, who tapped the ball into the net from the goalmouth.
But after the fifth goal, Belgium were guilty of allowing South Africa to dictate the pace of play for a few minutes and wasted valuable time.
They, however, got two golden opportunities in the last two minutes to extend the lead and go ahead of India’s goal difference of five but first Gougnard was guilty of going solo when there were two players on either side inside the striking circle.
On the second attempt, Pieterse made two saves from point blank range and when the ball ultimately crossed the goalline, the hooter had already gone off. The field umpire first gave the goal to Belgium but South Africa successfully asked for a video referral.