Champions Trophy Hockey 2018: Belgium trounce Pakistan 4-2, stay alive for bronze playoff
Once touted as the dark horses in the race for the FIH Champions Trophy 2018, the Olympic silver medalists Belgium finally had a reason to smile. Though out of contention for the ultimate finals, the 'Red Lions' are still in fray for a bronze medal playoff, drubbing Pakistan 4-2 despite being down by 0-1 till half time.
Bouncing back in the nick of time, Belgium denied Pakistan a second consecutive win, scoring goals at regular intervals to turn the tables on coach Roelant Oltmans' boys. With 1 win, 3 draws and 1 loss, Belgium now depends upon the result of the match between Argentina and defending world champions Australia in order to proceed towards the bronze medal playoff.
Pakistan sustained an early lead, but Belgium bounced back
Riding high on the surprise victory over Olympic champions Argentina, Pakistan were confident of staging another upset against the silver medalists from Belgium. Their efforts were rewarded -- when Aleem Muhammad Bilal opened Pakistan's account with a brilliant penalty corner conversion -- 11 minutes into the game.
The Pakistani team then maintained the lead for one full half, to the point where Belgian fans grew nervous to the possibility of Pakistan staging an upset, an opportunity which India narrowly missed in their match against Belgium.
Belgium, however, had other plans. Down, but not out, the Red Lions struck back fiercely. In the 36th minute, Thomas Briels equalized the score with a crisp field goal. Pakistan took this as a challenge and struck within minutes -- with Aleem Bilal scoring on a penalty corner -- extending Pakistan's lead to 2-1.
Unwilling to bow out, Belgium struck back once again within a minute, when Amaury Keusters equalized the score again. In the final quarter, Belgium went out all guns blazing. 6 minutes into the final quarter, they found success, with Cedric Charlier converting on a penalty corner to give Belgium a lead of 3-2. Only three minutes later, Florent Van Auben extended the lead further to 4-2 with another crisp field goal and killed the match.
Belgium depends on Argentina vs Australia encounter for a chance at the podium
With this win, 3 draws and the loss against the Netherlands, Belgium is still contention for a podium finish, even if it means just a bronze medal. They'll have to depend on the upcoming encounter between Olympic champions Argentina and defending champions of this tournament, i.e. Australia, and hope that Argentina loses their match. In that case, the Argentine record would be 1-1-3, i.e. one win, one draw and three losses, while Belgium would be placed 4th, with 1 win, 3 draws and 1 loss.
Even a draw would see them through as Argentina shall be placed 5th, with a record of 1 win, 2 draws and 2 losses.
On the other hand, with 1 win and 4 losses, Pakistan is officially out of any serious medal contention. They will now play to avoid the wooden spoon in the final edition of the FIH Champions Trophy 2018.
Following is the lineup for the last leg of league matches in the FIH Men's Hockey Champions Trophy 2018 -
30 June - Australia vs. Argentina
30 June - India vs. the Netherlands