BELGIUM Bags FIH Men’s World Cup Hockey Tournament

THE 14th edition of FIH Men’s World Hockey Cup hosted by India at Bhubaneswar has concluded with Belgium winning the coveted bonanza after defeating The Netherlands in a thrilling finale. In the 19th day tournament from 28 November to 16 December, 16 nations had participated. The teams were divided into four pools. Belgium defeated former champions the Netherlands to go back on Christmas eve with their maiden men’s hockey World Cup title at the Kalinga Stadium. Olympic Silver medallist Belgium created history by making a 3-2 win in the penalty shoot-out after the final match of the game ended in a goalless draw. It was a great day for Belgium hockey as the country registered its second biggest international title after the Olympics Silver in Rio in 2016.In the last edition of the World Cup at The Hague in Netherlands, Belgium had finished fifth. The Netherlands failed to match Pakistan’s record of a fourth world title for the second consecutive edition. The Dutch had finished runners-up to Australia four years ago in front of their home crowd. They last won a World Cup title way back in 1998 in Utrecht. In Sunday’s shoot-out, Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch outmatched his Dutch counterpart Pirmin Blaak by making four saves to hand his side their maiden World Cup title.There was hardly anything to separate the two sides in the shoot-out as they were levelled 2-2 after five tries. While Jeroen Hertzberger and Jonas de Geus scored for Netherlands, Florent van Aubel and Victor Wegnez were on target for Belgium. However, the shoot-out was not without drama as Belgium needed Arthur de Sloover to score from their fifth and last attempt to win the game  sending the Red Lions bench into wild celebrations. But the Dutch goalkeeper asked for a referral for a foot and the goal was later withdrawn after TV replays showed the ball indeed touch De Sloover’s feet while he was pushing it into the net past Blaak.The reversal meant that the match went into sudden death and Van Aubel was given the responsibility by Belgium to take the first opportunity and he duly converted it.It was then Netherlands’ turn to score and however  Hertzberger faltered this time as Belgium goalkeeper Vanasch came up with another brilliant save to hand his side the biggest win of their careers. Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik were among those sat through the title clash.

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