Hockey World Cup 2018: Belgium proves too hot to handle for Pakistan

Netherlands hammers Canada by an identical 5-0 margin to set up a last four meeting with India in the Hockey World Cup.

The odds were always in Belgium’s favour but despite the huge gap in rankings, a 5-0 win against Pakistan was a statement of intent from the Red Lions.   -  afp

The odds were always in Belgium’s favour but despite the huge gap in rankings, a 5-0 win against Pakistan was a statement of intent from the Red Lions as they booked a quarterfinal spot in the Hockey World Cup here on Tuesday.

Completing the last eight was the Netherlands, which beat Canada 5-0 and would now be up against host India for a spot in the semifinals. Belgium would play Argentina in the other quarterfinal.

No one had given Pakistan a chance before the game, its continuation so far itself a testament to its survival instincts. But against a clinical and dominating Belgium, those weren’t enough.

As it happened: Hockey World Cup 2018: Belgium to face Germany in quarters

Total control

The Belgians controlled every aspect of the game and toyed with the opposition. Desperate defending from Pakistan kept them away for the first 10 minutes before Alexander Hendrickx’s penalty corner conversion gave Belgium the lead.

Three minutes later, captain Thomas Briels made it 2-0 despite being shielded by a Pakistani defender, deflecting in a pass from Florent van Aubel who went past half a dozen defenders along the backline.

Thereafter, it was Belgium all the way even without the team exerting itself to the limit. It spread the flanks, used the aerial balls, cut through the middle and entered the Pakistan circle at will, taking possession of the midfield.

Pakistan hardly had a shot at goal except two penalty corners, both going to waste. The Pakistan side that had fought hard in the early stages was absent and it looked like the players were running on fumes, unable to match the Belgian pace. After a point, it simply looked like it had given up and was trying to only avoid conceding any more goals before going home.

Clinical show

Later, Netherlands brushed aside any talk of inconsistency and staked itself as one of the favourites for the title with a clinical performance against Canada.

Against a team that likes to stay defensive, Netherlands gave a lesson in finding gaps and opening up space. It was a wonder Canada managed to hold it goalless in the first quarter with coach Max Caldas clearly unhappy at the quarter break.

As it happened: Hockey World Cup 2018: Netherlands 5-0 Canada

The pep talk helped the three-time champion get better with its finishes and two goals in five minutes were all it took to open the gates. Two more in as many minutes in the third quarter was enough to seal the win for Netherlands.

On Wednesday, the first two semifinalists would be decided when England takes on Argentina in the first quarterfinal and Australia locks horns with France later in the day.

The results: Belgium 5 (Alexander Hendrickx, Thomas Briels, Tom Boon, Cedric Charlier, Sebastien Dockier) bt Pakistan 0; Holland 5 (Thijs van Dam 2, Lars Balk, Robbert Kemperman, Thierry Brinkman) bt Canada 0.