Bhubaneswar: Belgium, on a spectacular Sunday night at the Kalinga Stadium, beat the Netherlands via sudden death in a penalty shootout to be crowned world champions for the first time.
The Belgians started celebrating after Arthur de Sloover slotted the ball into the net in their fifth chance in the penalty shootout, which they thought had ended 3-2 in their favour. But the goal was disallowed after the TV umpire found that the ball hit his foot. Belgium had to stop celebrating and get ready for sudden death.
In the sudden death, Florent van Aubel scored for Belgium and the Netherlands’ Jeroen Hertzberger missed. Belgium then celebrated, again, this time for real, their watershed moment in men’s hockey.
Earlier, Belgium and the Netherlands played out a goalless draw in regulation time.
The match progressed like the initial moments of an intense arm-wrestling contest – it never greatly tilted to one side. The Netherlands attempted a full press but couldn’t get past the Belgian defence, which has arguably been the best of this competition.
Jeroen Hertzberger, nevertheless, found a small opening and burst into the left flank, five minutes before the first quarter’s end. But the Belgian defenders hardly panicked. They had enough time to plot, surround him, closing all his goal-scoring windows and took the ball away from him.
Seve van Ass’s hit, five minutes before half-time, was the only time the ball entered the net (it wasn’t a goal as he shot from outside the penalty circle).
The Netherlands had two penalty corners within the last three minutes of the first half but couldn’t score off them.
The first one – flicked by Hertzberger – was deflected back by the Belgian custodian Vincent Vanasch. And, before Hertzberger could get to the ball again, five Belgian defenders swarmed him and took it away.
The second one, Hertzberger mis-trapped and the ball bounced. Mink van der Weerden swung wildly at it but missed.
A moment of individual brilliance was needed to break the deadlock in the title clash. But both teams followed this routine for most next half: intercept, attack, get intercepted, defend the counter-attack. Mirco Pruijser, in the 43rd minute, managed to create some space and attempted to beat five defenders and the ‘keeper with a tomahawk but it went past the far post.
The biggest hockey game of the last four years – except perhaps the Olympic gold medal match – was to be decided in the last 15 minutes.
The Dutch had another half-chance when Bob de Voogd dashed through the left flank and attempted a tomahawk on the run but Vanasch parried it away without fuss.
The Netherlands survived a moment of anxiety when they were down to 10 men (after Jonas de Geus’s green card in the 57th minute) and rival skipper Thomas Briels stormed into their right flank and shot at goal. But, Briels, out of breath, couldn’t slot the ball in.
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