Bhubaneswar: Belgium hammered England 6-0 on Saturday at the Kalinga hockey stadium here to advance to their first-ever World Cup final.
The Red Lions, in Sunday’s title clash, will take on the winners of the Netherlands versus Australia semi-final. Alexander Hendrickx (45’, 50’) scored a brace, while Tom Boon (8’), Simon Gougnard (19’), Cedric Charlier 42’) and Sebastian Dockier (53’) had a goal each. England, for the third consecutive time, lost their World Cup semi-final.
England, in the first quarter, had better possession than Belgium (57%-43%) but they neither created chances nor got an opportunity to score. They failed to breach Belgium’s penalty circle in this phase and, hence, didn’t even have a shot at the goal.
Belgium, meanwhile, broke away in one of their quick counterattacks. Victor Wegnez, after intercepting the ball from the English midfield, dashed from the half-line in the eighth minute, and passed the ball on the run to Florent van Aubel in the edge of the dotted circle. Van Aubel ran in from the left flank and crossed the ball to Tom Boon, who deflected it into the net from the goalmouth.
Simon Gougnard doubled the Red Lions’ lead four minutes into the second quarter. England goalkeeper George Pinner managed to deflect Alexander Hendrickx’s drag-flick but couldn’t stop Gougnard’s hit from the left.
Belgium threatened to extend the lead to 3-0 when Gauthier Boccard sneaked into England’s circle and passed the ball to van Aubel. But Sebastien Dockier’s deflection of van Aubel’s cross went wide of the net.
“If you are too wide, they come through the middle,” said England coach Danny Kerry during the half-time interval, of Belgium’s structure. “If you are too wide they come down to middle. If you stay compact, they stay with the ball for a long time. That’s the conundrum.”
An early goal in the third quarter might have helped England deal with the conundrum but they, for the 16th time in the tournament, missed converting a penalty corner.
While England missed another penalty corner in the next quarter, Belgium added two more goals to their tally. The first one – the most spectacular of the match – Cedric Charlier scored with a powerful drive from the right flank. Surrounded by four English defenders, Charlier scooped the ball to un-trap himself, skipped and got to it before driving it to the net. The second one was a result of Alexander Hendrickx’s drag-flick in Belgium’s penalty corner.
Hendrickx scored his brace, five minutes into the final quarter, off another penalty corner. This goal snuffed out England’s flickering hopes and inflated Belgium’s confidence. Sebastian Dockier’s audacious hit from the top of the circle into the English net in the 53rd minute (Belgium’s sixth goal) denoted Belgium’s dominance.