|May 9th, 2013|
|9||Round Robin||6:00pm||FRA - BEL||2 - 3 (1 - 1)||Final||x 12|
A large crowd was on-hand for the much anticipated match between host France and top-ranked team Belgium. After a vibrant rendition of La Marseillaise by the home crowd, Belgium promptly forced a penalty-corner, but Tom Boon’s powerful high flick was superbly countered by a flying save by Martin Zylbermann in the French goal.
Belgium were equally unsuccessful on their next two penalty-corner attempts and play became more balanced. France were taking advantage of all their chances to push forward and challenge the Belgian defense, and they were rewarded by a superb goal by Arnaud Becuwe in a narrow angle from the right of the circle, after a swift rush by Matthieu Durchon. They maintained their momentum, pushing Belgium on their heels, and narrowly missed the opportunity to increase their lead on a fancy penalty-corner option.
Belgium reacted strongly, well decided to close the gap before the break and they manage to do it in the final minute of the period with an unstoppable penalty-corner by Tom Boon, his 10th goal of the competition.
Belgium immediately pushed up the pace in 2nd period and created a hot sequence in the French circle, but the first serious attempt on goal was at the other end by Matthieu Durchon, once again surging through the defense for a quick shot barely handled by Vincent Van Asch in the Belgian goal.
The match was played at a thundering pace, much to the pleasure of the enthusiastic crowd. Les Bleus were working hard and Arnaud Becuwe had a chance in a crowded circle, but his shot was just wide. Belgium, playing with the poise of experience, weathered the storm in defense but could not break the deadlock in attack, despite a few chances on penalty-corner.
With 15 minutes to go, tension got up a few notches, on the pitch and in the stands. Despite hot contestation from the French players (and the crowd), Belgium earned another penalty-corner on a blunder by the French defense and Florent Van Aubel deflected the ball in front of the keeper to give his team a narrow 1-goal lead.
They got some more breathing room in the 66th minute on another penalty-corner, this time by Loïck Luypaert collecting the rebound to slide the ball under the keeper. The French fans got wild when Viktor Lockwood received the ball after a broken penalty-corner and managed to place it just inside the post. But it was too little too late and, despite pulling their goal-keeper in the final minute of play, France could not equalize and Belgium earned their 3rd win of the competition, this time against a direct contender for the final qualification.
France might be disappointed by the narrow loss, but they will surely take solace in their strong performance, nearly on par with a team ranked much higher than them.