BHUBANESWAR: Belgium finished the round-robin stage of theHockey World League Final
as the only team to win all three matches after outclassing Netherlands 3-0 here on Tuesday. They scored all their three goals from penalty corners withLoick Luypaert
(19′, 20′) continuing his fine form whileTom Boon
(32′) converted the other as they set up a quarter-final clash with India on Wednesday.
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It was already clear by the end of first half that Belgium were the superior of the two teams. They had more circle penetration, won more penalty corners and enjoyed better possession. They ticked the vital stat too – two goals to Netherlands’s nil. They won five PCs and converted two of them, both by in-form Loick Luypaert. They were scored in that half of the turf where other teams have found it difficult to make a clean trap and complained of an uneven surface near the D.
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When Belgium were on the prowl, they played their most attractive hockey. ‘Attack’ was the keyword. Netherlands ‘keeper Sam Van der Ven put up a spirited performance. He made several saves that were the reason Belgium attackers were not able to open even a bigger lead at the end of the first two quarters.
Netherlands came close to scoring several times but failed to string together decisive moves. Belgium were on the money with their tactics. Man-to-man marking, spreading out the Dutch defence and making incisive runs inside the D. They gave little time for Euro champions to breath. Netherlands improved in the third quarter, pressing harder but this was after Belgium had converted their third PC of the night through Tom Boon.
The Dutch were unlucky too. They had converted a PC in the 12th minute but on referral it was clear the ball was trapped on the edge of the D and therefore the goal was disallowed. Their high pressing game in the final quarter allowed them more freedom to push Belgian players deep but by then Belgium had already taken a comfortable lead and were more than happy to defend. Luypaert though had a golden chance to record his second successive hat-trick but he missed the penalty stroke hitting the ball wide. By finishing with nine points and topping Pool A, Belgium will now face India who finished fourth in their Pool.