Top contenders Belgium were pushed to the limit by hosts France before they scraped through 3-2 to rack up their third straight win in the third FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament at the Stade George-Lefèvre in Saint-Germain, near Paris.
The Red Panthers treaded down the attacking path and forced an early penalty corner but Tom Boon’s high flick was well saved by the French goalkeeper Martin Zylbermann.
Belgium wasted two more short corners before France pulled ahead almost against the run of play when Arnaud Becuwe slotted home from a narrow angle after being fed by Matthieu Durchon.
Stung by the goal, Belgium restored parity in the final minute of the first half through Tom Boon’s penalty corner goal.
Florent Van Aubel gave Belgium the lead in the 55th minute after deflecting home a short corner.
Belgium seemed to have scored the insurance goal in the 66th minute when Loïck Luypaert slammed the rebound home off a short corner.
Viktor Lockwood gave the boisterous home fans a lot to cheer about when he reduced the margin in the dying moments of the game.
There was hardly any time left for the French equalizer as the Redshirts picked up their third consecutive win.
In another match, Canada also posted their third win, beating Portugal 4-1. They have two tough matches coming up against France and Belgium.
In the final game of the day, Scotland registered their first win, beating Poland 4-3 in a dramatic penalty shoot out after both teams were locked 3-3 in regulation time.
Earlier in the second round matches, Belgium made mincemeat of Scotland 7-1, France crushed Portugal 6-0, Canada sailed past Poland 3-1.
Belgium had a big 19-0 win over Portugal in their first match. France had to break a lot of sweat before overcoming Poland 4-2, while Canada sneaked past Scotland 5-3 in their first round matches.
Earlier, in the first FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in New Delhi, hosts and 9th ranked India and 15th ranked Ireland made it to the Hockey World League (HWL) semifinals slated to be held in Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Johor Bahru (Malaysia) later this year.
10th ranked Argentina and 12th ranked South Africa qualified from the second FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
The fourth and final FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament would be held at Elektrostal (Russia) from May 27 to June 2.