Two weeks of engrossing action in the 2018 Men's Hockey World Cup has thrown up the final four contenders as we have reached the semifinals stage. England, Belgium, Netherlands, and Australia will battle it out over two days as they aim to capture the coveted World Cup trophy in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
The first match of the day saw the England side take on their European counterparts Belgium at the Kalinga Stadium on a bright Saturday evening. Belgium (FIH Rank 3) and England (FIH Rank 7) had a similar journey to the final four in the competition.
England was the first side to make the final four of the tournament after defeating one of the favorites in the tournament, Argentina, in a closely fought encounter that ended 3-2 in favor of the Britishers. This is their third straight World Cup semifinals appearance and they finished fourth in the previous two editions. Prior to that, the Englishmen had overcome the Kiwis 2-0 in the crossover match to set up the clash with the South American Olympics gold medalists.
The Belgian side also made their way to the semifinal stage through the crossover route after finishing behind India in the Pool C of the group stage. They thrashed four-time champions Pakistan 5-0 in the crossover fixture to set up an intriguing clash with European giants Germany. Belgium overcame the German challenge in a tightly fought 2-1 win as Tom Boon clinched the win with a 50th-minute goal. This was Belgium's first ever appearance in a World Cup semifinal.
The Belgian side started on a promising note with Tom Boon getting a goal in the eighth minute after a good run on the left wing by Florent Van Aubel as he deflected the cross past George Pinner in the England goal. The Belgians were resilient in defence and did not allow the England attackers to enter their circle even once in the first quarter.
Belgium added another goal in the second quarter after Simon Gougnard pounced on the rebound after the save by Pinner off a penalty corner attempt by Alexander Hendrickx. The first half ended with the Belgium side leading 2-0.
England came out with a renewed spirit in the third quarter and made a few inroads into the Belgian circle but the defense did not give them any easy chances. The Belgians added another goal when Cedric Charlier controlled a well-timed aerial ball and scored past Pinner with a strong hit. A penalty corner for Belgium was converted by Alexander Hendrickx at the end of the third quarter to take a commanding lead of 4-0 in the match.
Two more goals in the final quarter saw the Belgian side enter their first ever World Cup final with a thumping 6-0 win over England.
We take a look at three standout players from the match who had an impact on the result of the match.
#3 Alexander Hendrickx
Alexander Hendrickx played on the left flank of the Belgian defence and was the point man for them during the penalty corners.
His effort in the second quarter was saved by the England keeper but Gougnard scored the follow through. However, Hendrickx struck successfully in the third quarter with a strong drag flick as he got the fourth Belgian goal taking his tournament tally to six goals.
Within five minutes, Hendrickx added another one with his drag flick as the Belgians added further misery onto the Englishmen. Hendrickx now leads the goals tally in the tournament with seven goals.