Bhubaneswar: Belgium continued their brilliant form and rode on a brace by Loick Luypaert and a goal by Tom Boon to trounce the Netherlands 3-0 in their last Pool A match of the Men’s Hockey World League Finals (HWLF) at the Kalinga Stadium here, Tuesday.
The Red Lions ended their league campaign with nine points from three matches to set up a date with hosts India, Wednesday. And on paper Belgium certainly favourites for the game, having beaten the Men in Blue twice earlier this year. They also beat India 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the Rio Games last year.
Belgium dominated the match and earned 12 penalty corners and converted three of them. Luypaert scored in the 19th and 30th minutes respectively while Boon struck in the 32nd minute.
In a match full of free-flowing hockey, the Netherlands also attacked whenever, they had the chance. However, the Belgium defence stood firm while on the other hand the Dutch defenders committed silly errors inside the ‘D’ to concede penalty corners out of which Belgium benefitted.
The Netherlands also earned four penalty corners, but failed to capitalise on a single one of them as the Belgian defenders were quick off the blocks to thwart the opposition drag-flickers.
Belgium could have had a more emphatic margin of victory, but for the efforts of Dutch goalkeeper Sam van der Ven who made at least five brilliant saves off penalty corners and a penalty which he palmed away. It was his brilliance which kept the loss margin down to three goals only for the Oranjes.
For a brief period in the second quarter tempers threatened to boil over as players of both sides were involved in heated arguments in the middle and there was a bit of pushing and jostling. However, better sense prevailed and the spectators got their money’s worth.
This Belgium side have emerged major contenders of the title simply because of the speed at which they play. It can safely be said that no team will be comfortable with them. They have the perfect blend of skill and physicality and hence are proving handful to each and every opposition.
When they were 0-3 down the Dutch tried to play ‘pressing’ hockey. However, other than earning a couple of penalty corners, they failed to create an impact. The likes of John-John Dohmen and Sebastien Dockier controlled the midfield brilliantly for Belgium and nipped many a Dutch move in the bud.
Thierry Brinkman and Robbert Kemperman made some efforts for the Dutch, but lacked support from their mates.
Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra