Belgium ended up at the top of the table in Rotterdam
Belgium ended up at the top of the table in Rotterdam
(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

Belgium – Australia 3-2 (0-1 halftime) (7-6 shootout)

The final between Australia and Belgium at the Rabobank Hockey World League tournament in Rotterdam lived up to expectations as Belgium claimed the first-ever title at the event in a dramatic nine-round shootout victory.

There was no shortage of drama in the game as Belgium came back from a one-goal deficit to take a 2-1 lead only to see it erased in the last minute by a Russell Ford strike. The shootout was no less dramatic as it took an amazing nine rounds to settle things. It was only when Chris Ciriello shot wide on the final Australian chance that the game was decided and Belgium could celebrate its first-ever title at a top-level FIH event.

It was a battle throughout the 70 minutes with neither team giving the other much breathing space. Australia’s Christopher Ciriello broke the stalemate doing what he does best – firing in drag flicks. Ciriello put all his might into the flick on a diving effort that hit the far corner of the goal and lifted Australia to a 1-0 lead 21 minutes into the game.

It was a lot of back-and-forth with the Aussies showing a little more strength as the game wore on. But Tom Boon sparked Belgium to life when he got his stick on the ball with a well-timed deflection that sent the ball top shelf for the equalizing goal in the 49th minute.

Sebastien Dockier was left unchecked at point blank range in front of the Australia net and it cost the World #2 team dearly as he was fed a centering pass that he easily popped in to give the Belgians the 2-1 lead with 11 minutes to go in the game with 11 minutes to go in the game.

Russell Ford struck with exactly 60 seconds left on the clock deflecting the ball up and over Belgian goaltender Vincent Vanash to tie the game at two and send the game to a deciding shootout.

The game was a rematch of a preliminary round meeting between the two teams, which Belgium won, 3-1. Ultimately, that win gave Belgian the easier road to the final game as the top seed out of their preliminary round.

The win gives the ninth-ranked Belgians their first-ever victory at a top-tier FIH event, a true feather in the cap for the country, which has shot up the FIH World Ranking and enjoyed massive success in the last few years. It is also a major momentum builder for the Belgians for the EuroHockey Championship, which they will host.