Defending Champions Belgium came back from a goal down to draw 2-2 with European rivals Germany while South Korea defeated Japan 2-1 in a clash of Asian rivals in Pool B action in the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 at the Kalinga Stadium here on Tuesday.
With only two matches scheduled on Tuesday, the focus was on the clash between Belgium and Germany as the winner of the match would have topped the group.
Germany and Belgium have produced many entertaining encounters and handsomely delivered on that promise in the final match of the day.
The Red Lions, the reigning Olympic and World champions came roaring out of the gates and were the first to get on the scoreboard. Germany, who were slow off the blocks, gradually grew into the game and levelled the score before the interval.
The Germans carried the momentum into the second half and finally managed to score in the 53rd minute, but an untimely green card for Thies Pirnz allowed Belgium to dominate for two minutes and they managed to get back on level terms through a goal by Victor Wegnez. The match ended 2-2 as the two teams took their tally to four points from two matches.
The results keep Pool B incredibly tight with Korea on 3 points trailing Germany and Belgium who sit on 4 points each, with Belgium on top of the table thanks to their superior goal difference.
In what promised to be a cracking encounter, Belgium earned the first penalty corner and it was nearly converted by Alex Hendrickx, but for a goal-line clearance by post defender Mathias Muller.
Germany had a glorious chance in the first quarter as a cross from the right fell to Christopher Ruhr, but his snap-shot was well saved by goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch. Belgium did end up scoring the opener as Cedric Charlier dribbled his way through three German defenders and his powerful hit snuck into the bottom left corner of the goal in the 9th minute. They led 1-0 at the break.
Belgium continued to dominate possession and territory in the second quarter, but it was Germany who found the goal, with Niklas Wellen taking a free hit quickly and smashing a powerful shot from the right that beat Vanasch on the far post in the 22nd minute. The two teams failed to find the back of the goal in the remaining time and were tied 1-1 at half-time.
The two teams remained equally competitive in the second half as they created plenty of chances but a combination of great keeping by Stadler and some off-target shots by German forwards kept the score at 1-1.
Things changed in the Germans’ favour in the 52nd minute when a push inside the Belgian circle earned them a penalty stroke that was dispatched with ease by Tom Grambusch to give Germany a crucial lead.
Belgium were back level within 2 minutes of conceding as an unselfish pass by Felix Denayer presented Wegnez with a great scoring opportunity and he sent his shot into the bottom left corner perfectly. Stadler was once again called upon to make a big save in the 59th minute as Belgium made one final push, as the two teams came off the turf with one point each.Korea beat Japan 2-1
Korea and Japan are two teams known for their defence-first approaches, but it only took Japan 70 seconds to get on the board, as they won an early penalty corner which was powerfully deposited into the right corner of the net by Ken Nagayoshi.
Korea would not trail for long though as Lee Jungjun was sent through on the goal by Jang and smartly lifted the ball over the keeper and into the goal. Lee then pounced on a loose ball in the circle in the second quarter to give Korea the lead.
Japan had two huge chances to level the score before the end of the half. Koji Yamasaki was the first to miss a gilt-edged chance when he skied his shot with just the keeper to beat. Captain Seren Tanaka then struck the post with a little over a minute left in the half, but the rebound could not be struck in by the Japanese players who had flocked the Korean circle.
The second half produced plenty of attacking opportunities but it was the goalkeepers who had the biggest say in the game. Takashi Yoshikawa for Japan and Jaehyeon Kim for Korea were outstanding in the goal. Kim did the star turn for Korea as Japan mounted attack after attack on the Korean goal in search of an equaliser. Japan earned a penalty corner with two seconds left on the clock, but a failed trap at the top of the circle ended Japan’s chances of equalising and Korea walked away from the game with all 3 points.