Playing with clinical precision, Belgium upstaged two-time winner Germany 2-1 to make their maiden entry in the semi-finals of the Hockey World Cup at Kalinga Stadium here on Thursday.
Germany, looking a pale shadow of the team of yore, took the lead through Diieter Linnekogel (14th). Belgium, silver medallist at Rio Olympics equalised through Alexander Hendrickx (18th) and Tom Boon (50th) gave them the winner.
Germany, who have made the semi-finals 11 times till date but finished only sixth in 2014, again failed to cross the quarter-final hurdle as Belgium set up a semi-final clash with England slated for December 15.
The Germans took the initiative to open up the game and in the third minute Christopher Rhur intercepted a ball and set up an opening but the Red sticks not only foiled the move but launched a counter-attack .
The two-time winners kept pressing and the Belgians were forced to fall back to defend their citadel. Having some of the game's best attackers, the Germans gained control of the midfield and pushed rivals on the backfoot .
Belgium regrouped themselves and launched the counter which created some commotion in German defence who however warded off the challenge. Another Belgium attack followed and they earned a penalty corner from that.
Alexander Hendrickx‘s flick was deflected for a long corner. Germans retaliated with Tom Grambusch making a super run down into the Belgium circle and tried to set up fellow striker but his cross was well intercepted by defender Sebastien Dockier.
The former champions kept up the pressure and the Belgium defence finally collapsed in the 14th minute when a counter move created panic in the defence and Dieter Linnekogel, taking advantage of the chaos, slammed the ball home to give Germany the lead (1-0).
Belgium hit back strongly and earned a penalty corner in the final minute of the quarter. It led to a second penalty corner, which was superbly saved by Tobias Walter but that led to a third penalty corner and Walter made another save.
Belgium started the second quarter strongly and made two good attacks from right flanks through Simon Gougnard and were rewarded with a penalty corner and this time Alexander Hendrickx flicked the ball home. (1-1).
Buoyed by this equaliser, the Belgians started raiding the German citadel and forced five more penalty corners but each time they found Tobias Walter a tough nut to crack.
The Germans suddenly looked stressed out. They seemed to have lost steam and the will to fight back for which they were once so famous.
As the Belgians stepped up the pressure, the Germans became panic-ridden and clueless. Their attacks lacked cohesion and they hardly looked threatening.
The Red Sticks upped their ante and in the 49th minute they earned their ninth penalty corner. Hendrickx’s shot was cleared by the goalkeeper.
The Belgians earned the crucial breakthrough in the 50th minute. Belgium skipper Thomas Briels made a good move but Walter again came to his side’s rescue but on a rebound Tom Boons intercepted the ball and slammed it into the cage, and that turned out to be the winner.
Belgium deserved to win and they won.
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