INDIA: Vincent Vanasch proved why he is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world as he helped Belgium defeat the Netherlands and secure a spot in the World Cup final.
The 35-year-old veteran staved off a determined Dutch challenge in the shootout, leading Belgium to a 3-2 victory after the teams were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation time.
Vanasch, named the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year three consecutive times (2017-19), denied Thijs van Dam and Terrance Pieters, while Seve van Ass missed his shot.
Today’s win marks the second straight World Cup final spot for Belgium, and it is worth noting that Vanasch was also the hero in the final against the Dutch four years ago.
Despite Vanasch’s heroics, the Belgian team should have finished the game earlier. They dominated throughout the match, creating numerous shot opportunities, but were unable to find a way past Dutch goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak.
Players such as Tom Boon, Arthur van Doren, Antoine Kina, and Florent van Aubel actively created opportunities and entered the Dutch circle. Still, they were unable to capitalise on their chances.
The first two-quarters of the match were focused on possession and percentages, with both teams splitting the honours for the first 30 minutes.
The Belgians attempted to score from aerial passes but were unsuccessful in finishing their moves, while the Dutch tried to chip away at the Belgian defence but were also unable to breach it.
It wasn’t until the 12th minute that Jip Janssen scored the first goal for the Dutch. However, Tom Boon levelled the score for Belgium three minutes before halftime with a powerful flick.
After halftime, Belgium became much more attacking and determined, dominating the third quarter.
However, a turnover in the 35th minute led to back-to-back penalty corners for the Dutch, and Janssen scored again, putting the Dutch ahead 2-1. But Belgium did not give up and scored the equaliser through Nicolas de Kerpel’s goal in the fourth quarter.
Despite a few opportunistic runs by the Dutch along the baseline on the counter, they had little to show for their efforts, barely managing to get the ball inside the Belgian circle.
The Belgian team dominated the match, and a penalty stroke in the 51st minute could have sealed the win for Belgium, but Blaak stood tall and denied the Belgian squad, taking the game into the shootout. In the end, it just wasn’t the Dutch team’s day.
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