Hockey World League Final 2017: Spain stun European champions Netherlands; Belgium beat Argentina
Bhubaneswar: It was a day of upsets in the Pool A matches of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final on Saturday, as Belgium and Spain stunned Olympic champions Argentina and European champions Netherlands in their opening matches of elite eight-nation tournament.
While Belgium shocked World No 1 Argentina 2-3, lowest-ranked team of the tournament, Spain pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament so far by defeating World Cup silver medallist Netherlands by an identical margin.
In the first match of the day, the win enabled World No 3 Belgium to avenge their loss to Argentina in the title clash of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
It was an exciting, end-to-end affair between the two Rio Games finalists but it was the Red Lions who drew the first blood in the ninth minute when Loick Luypaert converted a penalty corner.
After a barren second and third quarters where both the teams struggled to get an edge over each other, the final 10 minutes witnessed an edge-of-the-seat tussle with the teams pumping in as many as four goals.
After Belgium doubled their lead in the 51st minute through a field goal by Amaury Keusters, Argentina pulled one back a minute later when Maico Casella found the net from a field effort.
But Belgium restored their two goal lead four minutes later through another penalty corner conversion by their dragflick expert Tom Boon.
The Argentines, however, did not give up without a fight and scored again to reduce the deficit a minute later through Gonzalo Peillat’s (57th minute) penalty corner strike.
It was Argentina all the way in the last three minutes of the game but Belgium defended stoutly to held on to their lead.
Meanwhile in the second match of Pool A, Spain, ranked ninth in the world, punched above their weight to outclass two-time Olympic champions Netherlands.
Spain scored their goals through Pau Quemada (15th minute), Enrique Gonzalez (35th) and Diego Arana (39th), while Lars Balk (37th) and Mirco Pruijser (55th) were the goal getters for the Dutchmen.
Spain will face Argentina in their next pool match on Sunday, while Belgium will be up against Netherlands.