Bhubaneswar : Belgium and Spain registered contrasting wins in their respective Pool A matches at the Hockey World League Final here on Tuesday.
Belgium continued their excellent form in this tournament, thrashing Netherlands 3-0 while Spain rode on a couple of late goals to beat Argentina 2-1.
The result sees Belgium consolidate the top spot in the pool with nine points, having won all three of their matches.
Spain meanwhile, held onto the second spot with six points from three matches. Argentina and Holland at the bottom with a single point each.
Belgium did not face too much of a challenge from the Dutch, who have been extremely lacklustre in this tournament.
Loack Luypaert (19th, 30th minutes) converted a couple of penalty corners in the second quarter to put Belgium in the driver’s seat.
Tom Boon (32nd) scored off another penalty corner early in the third quarter to boost Belgium’s tally.
Earlier in the day, Matias Paredes gave Argentina the lead with a field goal in the 21st minute.
The Spaniards however, staged a dramatic comeback in the final quarter with Pau Quemada (50th) and Josep Romeu (59th) helping them earn all three points.
In a keenly fought encounter, none of the teams were ready to give space to the other. After a goalless first quarter the spectators were in for a thrilling encounter.
The Olympic champions from Rio 2016 broke the tension in the 21st minute when attacking midfielder Matias Paredes breached the Spanish defence and struck the ball into the goalpost to secure a handy lead.
Spain tried their best but couldn’t break the deficit in the first half. Even the third quarter proved to be a futile exercise as the Argentine defence was solid as a rock.
Five minutes into the final quarter, it looked as if Argentina would romp away with a narrow win. However, the Spaniards came out all guns blazing.
The final ten minutes saw the Spanish dream run once again and their efforts soon brought fruits as the experienced Pau Quemada converted a penalty corner into a superb goal in the 50th minute to level the score 1-1.
Argentina could never really recover from that moment. They wasted the next 9 minutes in trying to plug the gaps in their defence. In the 59th minute, only a minute before the final hooter would be struck, the Spaniards were awarded another penalty corner.
A mistake from the Argentine defenders proved too costly as Spain converted the penalty stroke into the winning goal. Josep Romeu’s clincher turned out to be the difference in the game.
Spain will be full of confidence for their quarterfinal clash which is likely to come against Australia. Argentina, who could find themselves at the bottom of Pool A, may have a tough knockout contest against Germany unless Netherlands lose their final group game by a bigger margin.