Belgium etched their name in hockey history by clinching the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup that also put them in the No. 1 position at the FIH Men’s World Rankings.
Belgium, coached by New Zealander Shane McLeod, have moved into first position in the FIH World Rankings. To see the complete rankings.
With the 2018 World Cup title triumph in Bhubaneswar, Belgium displaced Australia from atop the FIH Men’s world hockey rankings table. The other Odisha World Cup finalists rose up to the No. 3 position behind Australia.
Newly-crowned world champions Belgium are now sitting at the top of the FIH Hero World Rankings, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has confirmed in a Press release.
The gold medal match, witnessed by a sell-out crowd at the Kalinga Stadium, was packed full of drama as two evenly-matched teams set about the task of claiming the world title.
High voltage encounter at Kalinga
The Netherlands were chasing a fourth World Cup success to draw level with Pakistan as the team with the most title wins, while Olympic silver medallists Belgium – a side beaten by the Dutch in the final of the EuroHockey Championships 2017 in Amsterdam – were determined to claim their first major crown to cap what has been a remarkable rise over the past ten years.
The two finalists went hard at each other in the opening stages of the match, with chances being created at both ends. Jeroen Hertzberger forced an early save from Belgium shot-stopper Vincent Vanasch, while Simon Gougnard’s speculative, high backhand strike was almost brilliantly turned into the Dutch goal by Tom Boon.
The play switched from one end of the field to the other throughout the second quarter, with Netherlands defender Glenn Schuurman making a crucial interception to deny Florent Van Aubel a clear scoring opportunity with Arthur de Sloover doing the same in the Belgian back-line. The Netherlands had two penalty corner opportunities ahead of half time but failed to take their chance as the Red Lions defense held firm.
The two sides remained locked together throughout the third quarter, although Belgian captain Thomas Briels forced a save from Pirmin Blaak while Mirco Pruijser flashed a backhand effort across the face of the Belgian goal.
It was a tense and cagey period, although the same could not be said for the fourth quarter as both teams desperately tried to get the win before the lottery of the shoot-out would be brought into play. Netherlands ace Bob de Voogd rattled the pads of Vanasch, while Nicolas de Kerpel hit the side of the goal just before Briels almost won it for Belgium, with Sander Baart making a crucial goal-line clearance to take the match into a shoot-out.
The Dutch took a 2-0 lead in the shoot-out thanks to strikes from Jeroen Hertzberger and Jonas de Geus, but goals from Florent Van Aubel and Victor Wegnez, combined with some brilliant saves from Vanasch, restored parity at 2-2. When Thijs van Dam missed, Arthur de Sloover thought he had won the title for Belgium when he fired home, but his effort was ruled out by a smart video referral from the Netherlands.
Epic comeback from Belgium
However, Belgium did not have long to wait for their moment in the sun. When Florent Van Aubel scored in sudden-death, Jeroen Hertzberger needed to find the net to keep his team alive. However, it was not to be, with Vanasch forcing the brilliant Dutch attacker wide before his shot sailed over the cross-bar. Whilst it was heartbreak for the Netherlands, who had suffered defeat in a second successive World Cup final, the triumph for the Red Lions will be forever remembered as one of the greatest moments the history of Belgian team sport.
World Cup silver medallists the Netherlands have climbed from fourth to third, with Olympic champions Argentina moving down to fourth position.
There were also significant moves for China and France, with the team from Asia climbing from 17th to 14th in the new rankings, one place ahead of France who have moved from 20th to 15th following the ranking points earned from their impressive eighth place finish in Bhubaneswar.
India, who made it to the FIH World Cup quarter-finals at home last week, are ranked fifth behind Argentina.