Bhubaneswar: A gritty Belgium defeated former champions the Netherlands in sudden death, in a thrilling summit clash to win their maiden men’s hockey World Cup title at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday. Olympic silver medallist Belgium created history by eking out a 3-2 win in the penalty shoot-out after the final match of the game’s showpiece event ended in a goalless draw.
It was a great day for Belgium hockey as the country registered its second biggest international title after the Olympics silver in Rio in 2016. In the last edition of the World Cup at The Hague in Netherlands, Belgium had finished fifth. The Netherlands, on the other hand, failed to match Pakistan’s record of a fourth world title for the second consecutive edition.
The Dutch had finished runners-up to Australia four years ago in front of their home crowd. They last won a World Cup title way back in 1998 in Utrecht. Incidentally, it was the Netherlands’ second consecutive match that went to shoot-out in the tournament after their victory over Australia in the semi-finals on Saturday.
In Sunday’s shoot-out, Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch outmatched his Dutch counterpart Pirmin Blaak by making four saves to hand his side their maiden World Cup title. There was hardly anything to separate the two sides in the shoot-out as they were levelled 2-2 after five tries. While Jeroen Hertzberger and Jonas de Geus scored for Netherlands, Florent van Aubel and Victor Wegnez were on target for Belgium.