Defending champion Belgium overpowered Netherlands 3-2 in the penalty shootout after playing a 2-2 draw in a semi-finals battle to set up a championship showdown with Germany at the ongoing FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup on Friday.
The bronze medal match, which will take place on January 29, will feature Netherlands and Australia, who both lost their respective semi-final matches on Friday. After the bronze medal match, Germany and Belgium will battle it out for the trophy. Reyenga’s botched trap gave Tom Boon the opportunity to enter the shooting circle and have a clear shot, but Lars Balk stole the ball from him. This was Belgium’s first real opportunity of the game. Koen Bijen, a star for the Dutch in the quarterfinals, won the game’s first penalty corner and came dangerously close to scoring on a deflection, but his effort was barely wide of the mark.
The Netherlands also took the game’s second penalty corner, and Janssen took it this time. His flinging flick low to Vanasch’s right thudded against the backboard, giving the Dutch a deserving early lead.
In the second half, the Netherlands kept snooping as Belgium looked for openings for counterattacks. Midway through the quarter, Brinkman received the ball slightly beyond the Belgian circle, giving the Dutch a strong opportunity. However, the captain was unable to fully control the ball. During a counterattack by Belgium, captain Denayer put the ball in the net, however, the referee had already blown for a foul on Sebastien Dockier in the sequence leading up to the goal.
In the absence of Alex Hendrickx, it was number 27 Tom Boon who stepped up and put a low drag flick between Blaak and the post defender to tie the score after it took Belgium 27 minutes to get their first penalty corner.
In the first minute of the second half, Koen Bijen had a wonderful opportunity to score after making a clear run at the goal from the right side with only Vanasch to beat. However, the seasoned Belgian goalkeeper stopped his shot to maintain the scores equal for the reigning champions.
A minute later, the Netherlands won two consecutive penalty corners, and Janssen reclaimed the lead with his second goal of the match, this time going to Vanasch’s left. Up until that moment, Blaak had been the busier of the two keepers, but Blaak was forced into action near the end of the third quarter when Denayer got two shots from the left and Boon added two more a minute later from a penalty corner and a rapid counter. However, Blaak halted all four of them.
A Dutch stick deflected the ball high in the circle with 30 seconds remaining in the first, falling to Nicolas de Kerpel, who slammed his shot past the Dutch goalie to tie the score at that key moment for the Red Lions.
No team put too many players at risk in the attack because of the possibility that their opponent would launch a counterattack. As a result, neither team had any more clear-cut opportunities, and the game ended in a shootout, much like the 2018 Men’s World Cup finals when these two teams previously faced off.
Vanasch, who had also been excellent in the game, shone in the shoot-outs, pressuring Netherlands into 3 misses from their 5 takes, earning his side a 3-2 victory. The Belgians were clinical in the shoot-outs, scoring 3 of their first 4 attempts despite the best efforts of the in-form Dutch keeper Blaak.
In the second semi-finals, Germany overcame a two-goal deficit to shock World No. 1 Australia 4-3. Niklas Wellen scored the game-winning goal.