Hockey World Cup 2018, Belgium vs Netherlands: 3 reasons why Belgium won the Final
When Colin Batch led a rookie team from Belgium into the London Olympics 2012, little did he know that he was setting up a legacy that would soon an unprecedented rise to the pinnacle. Surprising many teams, Belgium, dismissed otherwise as a weakling, secured a respectable 5th position.
6 years later, when Belgium faced the very team they had beaten in their route to a dream finals at Rio Olympics 2016, people expected the much more experienced Dutch team to prevail. Besides, Netherlands was desperately yearning for a World Championship title for the last 2 decades. The Red Lions, however had other plans.
Kalinga Stadium witnessed some of the most polished skills that has made European hockey a force to reckon with. None of the teams were ready to budge even an inch. If Belgium attacked the Dutch posts, the Dutch fought back with equal enthusiasm.
By the time the regulation time of 60 minutes had ended, the score was a surprise 0-0, which meant that after 24 long years, the winner of the World Cup finals would not be a one sided affair, but would be decided by the lively penalty shootout which was introduced for the first time at the 2014 FIH World Cup.
To the delight of the audience, and possibly to the frustration of the coaches, none of teams were able to dominate even in the penalty shootout, with the score being locked at 2-2 after the normal 5 shuffles taken by each team. It was here that two people emerged as the heroes for Belgium - goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch and star striker Florent Van Aubel.
While Vincent Vanasch denied a crucial strike by star Dutch player Jeroen Hertzberger, Florent Van Aubel stunned the hero of the previous match - goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak - to score the goal that created history at Kalinga Stadium. Not only had Belgium won the match, they had also won their first ever FIH Men's Hockey World Cup.
Here are three reasons why the Red Lions defeated Netherlands in the final of the 2018 Hockey World Cup.
#3 Fighting tooth and nail with the Dutch attackers
One of the most impressive points about the Belgian team is their never say die attitude. Much like a resurgent India, they don't stick to the past failures and renew themselves for the next assault. The same occurred when they met Netherlands for the ultimate showdown.
Right from the word go, the writing was on the wall. This was not going to be a one sided affair. Both sides jostled equally for the ball and were not ready to budge even an inch towards the other.
Belgium, who had a relatively cleaner campaign as compared to the rest of the teams, made it clear that this was a fight to the finish. Their struggle brought fruits, when the score was 0-0 even after the 60th minute, forcing the Dutch to play it out for the title once again in the penalty shootout.