Hockey World Cup 2018: Belgium beats Netherlands to claim maiden title

Belgium defeated Netherlands in a shootout to be crowned champion, while Australia defeated England in the third place play-off match of the 2018 Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

Belgium players celebrate on the podium after being crowned the world champion.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

It took an extra shot, a nerve-wracking 60 minutes and some tense moments but in the end, maiden finalist Belgium was crowned the 2018 Hockey World Cup champion at the chock-a-block Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday with a 3-2 shootout defeat of Netherlands.

Belgium proved more than an equal match for three-time title-holder in a game that remaining goalless at the end of regulation time.

When Jeroen Hetrzberger shot over the goal after finding no space to play along the ground, it was the culmination of more than a decade of dream, sweat and hard work for the golden generation of Belgian hockey that finally got on top of the podium after coming close so often.

RELATED| As it happened: Belgium vs Netherlands

Vincent Vanasch, the world’s best goalkeeper in 2017, proved why he is rated so highly, pulling off three brilliant saves in the shootouts — along with the right call to use the video referral — to ensure the European runner-up would not play second fiddle to the Dutch a second time. For the Dutch, the wait to join Pakistan as a four-time champion continues.

For 60 minutes, though, there was little to separate the teams who gave a perfect display of dour, defensive European hockey that was all about battling for midfield control. It was a complete contrast to the free-flowing, attacking show put together by the Australians who walloped England 8-1 in the playoff for the third spot earlier in the day.

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Belgium players celebrate after Vanasch (21) prevented Hertzberger from scoring an equaliser in sudden death to clinch the title.   -  AP

 

The finalists started cautiously, kept the ball and switched flanks trying to find that elusive opening. There may be debates on the style of play but it was mostly about being in the right place at the right time for the final pass, which neither team managed. It was also about getting those short and diagonal passes accurate and through the gaps.

It made for great tactical play but with little excitement for the crowd. It also highlighted the importance of getting the basics right – both teams crowded their defence under attack but only two penalty corners were conceded through the game, both for Netherlands and both wasted.

The wait for a goal to break the deadlock continued but, with neither team willing to take the risk of pushing ahead, it always looked like coming down to shootout.

It did, and for once, Belgium showed no nerves on the big stage. After the disappointment of Rio Olympics, the Red Lions ensured they would roar as winners here.

— Bronze for the Kookaburras —

Earlier, Australia dismantled England with a lesson in open play for its fifth bronze medal in the competition. It was also the biggest ever win margin in a medal round in the World Cups, bettering its own 6-1 hammering of Netherlands in the final of the previous edition.

RELATED | As it happened: England vs Australia

Having missed out on a final spot on penalties a day before, Australia came out with a vengeance and England was clueless in the face of such aggression. The short passes, the accurate piercing of gaps and the classic finishing touches that were missing in the semifinal were all on display on the day as the Aussies ensured they would not go back empty-handed.

 

The results

Final: Belgium 0 bt Netherlands 0 in shootouts; S-O score: Belgium 3 (Florent van Aubel 2, Victor Wegnez) bt Netherlands 2 (Jeroen Hertzberger, Jonas de Geus).

3rd place: Australia 8 (Tom Craig 3, Jeremy Hayward 2, Tim Brand, Trent Mitton, Blake Govers) bt England 1 (Barry Middleton).

Awards

Player of the Tournament: Arthur van Doren (Belgium)

Best Team Goal Celebration: India

Fans Choice: Arthur van Doren (Belgium)

Fair Play award: Spain

Most goals scored: Australia (29)

Best Junior Player: Thijs van Dam (Netherlands)

Best Goalkeeper: Pirmin Blaak (Netherlands)

Top Scorer: Blake Govers (Australia) and Alexander Hendrickx (Belgium) seven each.