Bhubaneshwar, December 16: A gritty Belgium defeated former champions the Netherlands in sudden death in a thrilling summit clash to win their maiden men's hockey World Cup title at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.
Olympic silver medallist Belgium created history by eking out a 3-2 win in the penalty shoot-out after the final match of the game's showpiece event 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.
📸 | A photograph that accurately represents the aspirations of a generation of hockey players.— Hockey World Cup 2018 - Host Partner (@sports_odisha) December 16, 2018
In Odisha, dreams do come true.
Live the dream, @BELRedLions. Keep roaring!#HWC2018 #Odisha2018 #BELvNED pic.twitter.com/5fdH8RpsX7
The Netherlands, on the other hand, 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.
Incidentally, it was the Netherlands' second consecutive match that went to shoot-out in the tournament after their victory over Australia in the semi-finals on Saturday.
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 and he did so, 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But the Dutch goalkeeper asked for a referral for a foot and the goal was later withdrawn after TV replays showed the ball indeed touch De Sloover's feet while he was pushing it into the net past Blaak.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 continue the sudden death but Hertzberger faltered this time as Belgium goalkeeper Vanasch came up with another brilliant save to hand his side the biggest win of their careers.
The title clash, which was witnessed by none other than cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, turned out to be a fierce contest between the two European sides.
While the Netherlands took the early initiative and attacked continuously in the first two quarters, Belgium made a strong comeback after the change of ends.
📽️ | @BELRedLions coach Craig Fulton almost had his heart in the mouth when the final goal scored by Belgium in shootouts was dismissed after they had celebrated. We've all been there!#HWC2018 #Odisha2018 pic.twitter.com/ObbrDvYdgP— Hockey World Cup 2018 - Host Partner (@sports_odisha) December 16, 2018
Belgium, though, had the first chance but Tom Boon's deflection in the second minute went just wide. Minutes later, Hertzberger's reverse struck the side-netting.
It was a midfield slugfest between the two teams as both created chances but lacked the final touch inside the opposition circle.
The Netherlands had two penalty corners in the match but the Red Lions defended stoutly to deny them any inroads.
Belgium, on the other hand, failed to secure a single penalty corner in the game.
Two minutes after half time, Belgium skipper Thomas Briels' shot was saved by Dutch goalie Blaak.
Belgium pressed hard in the final 10 minutes of the game, putting relentless pressure on the Dutch defence but a breakthrough eluded them.
Last edition champions Australia secured a consolation bronze medal after mauling England 8-1 on Sunday.
Tom Craig (9th, 19th, 34th minute) scored a hat-trick while Jeremy Hayward (57th, 60th) struck twice for Australia in the bronze medal play-off. Blake Govers (8th), Trent Mitton (32nd) and Tim Brand (34th) were the other goal getters for Australia.
World number 7 England's lone goal in the lopsided match came from the stick of Barry Middleton in the 45th minute.
This was Australia's fifth bronze medal in the history of the tournament. The last time the Kookaburras had to be satisfied with a third-place finish was way back in 1994 in front of their home crowd in Sydney.
The two teams met in the pool stage earlier in the tournament with Australia winning 3-0.
The victory also enabled Australia to further increase their head-to-head record against England. The two sides have faced each other 28 times earlier with Australia winning 21 matches as against four by England while the remaining games ended in draws.