Olympics silver-medallist Belgium beat three-time champions Netherlands in sudden death (3-2) to claim their maiden hockey World Cup title in Bhubaneswar on Sunday.
The game ended goalless in regulation time – a very first in any Hockey World Cup – with both teams putting up a defensive masterclass to take the game to the penalty shootouts. But Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch outperformed his Dutch counterpart Pirmin Blaak with four important saves to carry his side to their maiden title win.
— Belgian Red Lions (@BELRedLions) December 16, 2018
The entire stadium, including the Belgium bench, erupted in celebrations when Arthur de Sloover scored from Belgium’s fifth and last attempt but the Dutch goalkeeper asked for a referral and TV replays showed that the ball had indeed touched de Sloover’s foot. Belgium had to cut short their celebrations as 3-2 became 2-2 and the game into the stage it had started. Equal.
It meant the game moved into sudden death. Florent van Aubel converted to put Belgium ahead but Jeroen Hertzberger failed to beat Vanasch and the Red Lions marched to their first World Cup title.
Belgium became the sixth team to win the hockey World Cup title, putting an end to their grief of finishing second to Argentina in the Rio Olympics. They are the world champions now and deservedly so.
Hertzberger and Jonas de Geus had earlier scored from the spot for The Netherlands while Florent van Aubel and Victor Wegnez converted for the Red Lions in the penalty shootouts.
Netherlands had started well and dominated for the first two quarters but it was Belgium, who had the opening goal-scoring opportunity when Tom Boon’s deflection sailed wide. Hertzberger hit the side-netting for the Dutch minutes later.
Vanasch, who turned out to be the hero of the match, kept his side alive with two spectacular saves from two Dutch penalty corners.
The victory was not just a revenge for their 2017 European Championship summit defeat to the Dutch, it also propelled them to the World No.1 rankings, displacing former champions Australia. The Netherlands, on the other, tasted defeat yet again at the top four years after losing to the Kangaroos at the same stage.