BHUBANESWAR: Defending champions Belgium started their FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup campaign on a strong note by trouncing lower-ranked South Korea 5-0 in a pool ‘B’ game here at Kalinga Stadium on Saturday.
Determined Korea gave a stern reply to the defending champions in the first quarter.
However, Belgium came back strongly in the next quarter and earned back-to-back penalty corners in the 19th minute, but Korea defenders were agile enough to thwart both the scoring opportunities. The first half went goalless despite some ruthless attack by Belgium.
Belgium upped the ante at the start of the second half. They earned back to back penalty corners again in the 30th minute. They grabbed the opportunity in both the hands as Hendrickx Alexander converted it into a goal and broke the deadlock in the process.
They continued with the surge and created three back-to-back penalty corner opportunities three minutes later, but Korea custodian Kim Jaehan stood like the Rock of Gibraltar behind the goalpost to prevent further damage.
Belgium doubled their lead in the 42nd minute by a brilliant field goal from Cosyns Tanguy.
Korea showed their tremendous fight-back spirit to create their fifth penalty corner chance in the 44th minute, but failed to pierce the net against the agile defenders of Belgium.
The Red Lions increased their lead to 3-0 by converting a penalty corner through Van Aubel Florent in the 49th minute. Their rampaging run continued in the fourth and the final quarter with Dockier Sebastien striking a scintillating field goal with a fierce hit from the left flank of the goal post in the 51st minute to make it 4-0. De Sloover Arthur scored another brilliant field goal in the 57th to seal the fate of the match 5-0 in their favour.
In the second pool ‘B’ match played at Kalinga Stadium on Saturday, Germany blanked Japan 3-0.
No goal was scored till the half time. Grambusch Mats gave the lead to world number four Germans in the 35th minute through a penalty corner conversion before Ruhr Christopher struck a field goal five minutes later.
Prinz Thies (48th) then sealed the issue with a field effort in the final quarter as world number 16 Japan failed to score a goal.
Earlier on Saturday, former three-time champions Netherlands began their campaign at the World Cup in style, outplaying Malaysia 4-0 while New Zealand defeated Chile 3-1 in pool ‘C’ matches.
In the day’s opening match played at the Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela, Sam Hiha (11th, 18th minutes) scored two field goals in the opening two quarters while Sam Lane opened the account for the Black Sticks with another field strike in the ninth minute.
Chile’s lone goal came from the stick of Ignacio Contardo in the 49th minute.
In the other match of pool ‘C’ held in Rourkela, Thijs van Dam scored a field goal in the 19th minute to hand world number three Netherlands -- the winners of the 1973, 1990 and 1998 editions -- the lead before Jip Janssen converted a penalty stroke four minutes later.
Teun Beins (46th) made it 3-0 for the Netherlands by converting a penalty corner a minute into the fourth and final quarter, while Jorrit Croon scored the final goal a minute before the final hooter.
The Dutchman are atop pool ‘C’ on account of better goal difference than New Zealand, who also have three points from the win.
While the Netherlands and New Zealand will lock horns in their next pool match on Monday, Malaysia will take on Chile the same day.
On Friday, the opening day of the global event, four matches were played.
In pool ‘A’, Australia gave France an 8-0 lesson in Bhubaneswar while Argentina beat South Africa 1-0 at the same venue.
In the two pool ‘D’ games, hosts India defeated Spain 2-0 in Rourkela. England at the said stadium blanked Wales 5-0.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2023
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