Hockey World Cup 2018, Semifinal 1: Belgium vs England - 5 Talking Points
They were just another team throughout the 20th century. They were the minnows who were beaten with ease by stalwarts throughout the world in the early 2000s.
They weren't expected to strike big until Colin Batch came up to train them for London Olympics 2012. Since then, the Belgian men's hockey team, nicknamed The Red Lions, have never been the same.
From a surprise fifth position at the London Olympics 2012 to a dream final at the Rio Olympics 2016, Belgium has developed a lot as a hockey team.
The Kalinga Stadium at Bhubaneswar witnessed a recent spectacle to the charm of this Belgian team when they pummeled England 6-0 to enter another dream finals, this time at the FIH Hockey World Cup, where they will meet the winners of the second semifinal between Australia and Netherlands.
From the word go, Belgium pounced upon England with vengeance, for it was this very team who denied them a place in their first ever semifinals at the 2014 edition of the same.
Be it the attacking outfit, or the penalty corner wizards, or even the goalkeeper, Belgium hit all the right notes in this match.
From the first quarter itself, it was evident who would take home the ticket to the finals. Contrary to their performance in the quarterfinals, England looked completely lost, unable to intercept the Belgian passes, or even make an effort to stop their circle entries.
To make matters worse, their attacks on the Belgian goal found little support, as Vincent Vanasch denied them goals with ease.
By the time the final hooter blared throughout the Kalinga Stadium, it was Belgium who had whitewashed Belgium by 6-0. To double the celebrations, penalty corner specialist Alexander Hendrickx also scored back to back goals to take own his tally of goals to seven, pipping Blake Govers and Gonzalo Peillat in the race of the highest individual goalscorer.
Following are some of the interesting points about the match between Belgium and England.
#5 The writing on the wall from the first quarter itself
From the word 'Go', it was crystal clear as to who actually called the shots in the first semifinal between England and Belgium.
From the very first minute, Belgium attacked England with full force, making four circle entries into the English side.
Contrary to his stance against Olympic champions Argentina in the quarterfinals, the English goalkeeper George Pinner was completely clueless as to how to rescue his team from the Belgian attacks.
In the very eighth minute, Belgium struck gold when star striker Tom Boon struck a fierce shot into the English goalpost, giving Belgium a crucial lead of 1-0 in the very first quarter.
Had anyone closely followed the playing stance of Belgium during this goal, one would've known the result of the match. From that goal, Belgium never looked back.
By the time the first half ended, Belgium was officially ahead by 2-0, with Simon Gougnard chipping in the first Belgian goal from a penalty corner.