Defending champions Belgium to face Germany in FIH World Cup final

Defending champions Belgium stormed into the final of the FIH Men’s World Cup, where they will face Germany, after beating last-stage runners-up Netherlands 3-2 in a penalty shootout here on Friday. Defending Olympic champions Belgium and the Netherlands went to a shootout after a 2-2 draw in regulation time in the semi-finals at the Kalinga Stadium. An aging Belgium was given a tough fight by a young Netherlands team but the experienced defending champions prevailed in a shootout.

Belgium has 11 players over the age of 30 while the Netherlands have eight players under 25 and only two players over 30. Star strikers Tom Boon (27th minute) and Nikolaas de Karpel (45th minute) scored for Belgium in regular time, while penalty corner specialist Jip Jansen scored in the 12th and 36th minutes for the Netherlands. Earlier, a second-half hat-trick from star drag-flicker Gonzalo Pilat saw Germany come back from two goals down to beat Australia 4-3 to enter their fifth final.

Pilat scored from penalty corners in the 43rd, 52nd and 59th minutes, while player of the match Nicklas Wellen (60th) stunned the Australian camp with a goal seconds before the end of the match. Australia’s team was leading 2-0 till the interval. Jeremy Hayward (12th), Nathan Ephraims (27th) and Blake Govers (58th) scored the goals for the team. Australia will now play the bronze medal match on Sunday. The German team has won the second match in a row after coming back from behind.

After going down 0–2 against England in the quarter-final match, the team scored twice in the last three minutes to equalize and then defeated England in the penalty shoot-out to reach the semi-finals. Two-time champions Germany booked their place in the final for the first time since the 2010 season in New Delhi. Then the team missed out on completing the title hat-trick. This team became the champion in 2002 and 2006 while in 1982 also won the silver medal.

Germany also avenged their 1-3 loss to Australia in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics. Three-time champions Australia missed out on a place in the final for the second time in a row. The team had lost to the Netherlands at the same stage in 2018 and won the bronze medal. Earlier, they were successful in winning the title twice in 2010 and 2014. Australia were leading 2–0 in the 42nd minute and it looked like the result of the match would be in their favour. Pilat, who played more than 100 matches for Argentina, however, changed the course of the match after that.

Pilat, who played a key role in helping Argentina win the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, is now a German citizen. He turned the match from Australia to Germany in the last 18 minutes. Australia took the lead in the 12th minute from another penalty corner. With this goal, Jeremy Hayward consolidated his position as the top goalscorer in the tournament. Nathan then doubled the team’s lead in the 26th minute. In the second half, the German players adopted an aggressive approach and earned five consecutive penalty corners.

Pilat converted one of these into a goal to bring the team back into the match. He converted his 12th penalty corner of the day to make it 2-2 in the 51st minute. The match saw many ups and downs in the last three minutes. Grovers put Australia ahead 3–2 in the 58th minute but in the very next minute, Pilat converted a penalty corner to make it 3–3. With less than 20 seconds left in the match, Wellen headed the ball past the Australian goal posts to give the team a memorable victory.

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