Bhubaneswar, Jan 27 (IANS) Defending champion Belgium defeated Netherlands 3-2 in the penalty shootout after playing a 2-2 draw in the regulation time of the closely contested second semi-final, to set up a final clash with Germany at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, here on Friday.
Netherlands and Australia, who lost their respective semi-finals on Friday, will play in the bronze medal match, which will be followed by the finals between Germany and Belgium on January 29 at the Kalinga Stadium.
In the second game of the day, Belgium faced Netherlands in the finals rematch from the 2018 Men’s World Cup. While Belgium retained a major part of their core from that campaign, only four Dutch players in the squad playing in the semi-finals were part of the team that won silver at the 2018 World Cup.
Belgium had the first clear chance of the game as a missed trap by Reyenga allowed Tom Boon to get into the circle with a chance to shoot, but Lars Balk nicked the ball off him before he could get his shot away.
Koen Bijen who starred in the quarterfinals for the Dutch won the first penalty corner of the game and nearly scored it via a deflection, but his shot was just wide off the target as Belgium survived the first big chance of the game.
Netherlands won the second penalty corner of the game as well and this time it was Janssen who took it on and his slinging flick low to the right of Vanasch thudded against the backboard and gave the Dutch a deserved early lead.
Netherlands continued to probe in the second half while Belgium looked for counter attacking opportunities.
The Dutch had a good opportunity midway through the quarter, as Brinkman received the ball just outside the Belgian circle, but the Dutch captain couldn’t bring the ball fully under his spell and Belgium launched a counter that saw captain Denayer put the ball in the goal but the umpire had blown just prior to his shot for a foul by Dockier in the build up to the goal.
It took Belgium 27 minutes to win their first penalty corner and it was number 27 Tom Boon who stepped up again in the absence of Alex Hendrickx and put a low drag flick between Blaak and the post defender to draw Belgium level.
Koen Bijen had a great chance in the opening minute of the second half as he had a clean run on the goal from the right with just Vanasch to beat, but his shot was matched by the experienced Belgian keeper who kept the scores level once again for the defending champions.
A minute later, Netherlands won two back to back penalty corners and Janssen scored his second of the game, this time going to the left of Vanasch to restore the Dutch lead.
Vanasch was the busier of the two keepers until that point, but Blaak was called into action towards the end of the 3rd quarter as Felix Denayer got two shots from the left, and Tom Boon added two more a minute later from a penalty corner and a quick counter, but Blaak stopped all 4 of them.
With 30 seconds left in the quarter, a deflection off a Dutch stick in the circle lifted the ball high and Blaak’s attempted clearance fell to Nicolas de Kerpel, who smashed his shot past the Dutch keeper to bring the Red Lions back into the game at a crucial time.
Netherlands and Belgium both won early penalty corners in the final quarter but each time the ball wasn’t stopped cleanly and ended up on the foot of the stopper, turning over possession for the attacking team. Belgium won a penalty stroke in the 50th minute and Tom Boon stepped up to take it and give Belgium a late lead, but it was Pirmin Blaak who won the duel, shifting right to save the stroke and keep the Dutch level in the game.
There were no more clear cut chances for either side as the contest devolved into a frantic affair with neither team risking too many players into the attack, against the threat of their opponent launching a counter and the game went into the shoot-out, much like the finals in the 2018 Men’s World Cup when these two teams last met.
The Belgians were clinical in the shoot-outs, scoring 3 of their first 4 attempts despite the best efforts from the in-form Dutch keeper Pirmin Blaak, while Vincent Vanasch, who had been excellent in the game as well, starred in the shoot-outs, pressuring Netherlands into 3 misses from their 5 takes, earning his side a 3-2 win in the shoot-outs, which was an identical scoreline to the one in the 2018 finals, where Belgium won the gold over Netherlands.
“Always amazing to play against the Netherlands and in the Kalinga stadium in front of such a big crowd. Making a second finals in a row proves how good we are but our job is not done. We have one more game to go and we will recover tomorrow and hope to defend our title against Germany,” said Vincent Vanasch, who was awarded player of the match.