Belgium, current World Champions and the in form team for this tournament, entered the game as favourites in the eyes of anyone who wasn’t Belgian. The locals all worried they would buckle under the pressure. Germany of course are used to featuring in the sharp end of tournament and looked confident.
Before the game the Belgians looked nervy and on edge. This showed in the first half with a large number of unforced errors turning over possession. This resulted in very few chances for Belgium and Germany took advantage in the 21st minute. Christopher Ruhr able to convert well.
Germany then added to their tally, a second goal coming through Florian Fuchs who was able to tap in from close range. At 2-0 Belgium looked flat and without a hope. However the raucous home support lifted them.
The final twenty minutes were intense, non stop action and drama. Firstly Belgium pulled a goal back via Tom Boon was able to slam a corner in and bring the Red Lions into contention. With only 18 minutes left and the German defence looking very solid it didn’t seem anything more than shuttles could be on the cards for Belgium. A win certainly looked unlikely.
In the 52nd minute Nicolas de Kerpel brought Belgium level and then the real drama unfolded. Germany won a penalty corner after a Belgian defender encroached on the 5m rule when the German took down a lifted ball. The resulting penalty corner struck Victor Wegnez and a stroke was awarded. At this point Vincent Vanasch, the Belgian keeper, referred the decision and said the German stopper had used his hand. On review it was confirmed and the free hit was awarded to Belgium.
Almost immediately the Belgians were down the other end and Wengez again was involved, this time winning a corner after a bad stick tackle. Although this broke down the resulting side line ball fell to Wengez who converted to give Belgium the lead in the most dramatic circumstance. Four minutes remaining.
Germany pulled their keeper off and went forward. They put pressure on the team but Vanasch was up to it. Then the Belgians made sure of it, a long distance lifted ball to Cedric Charlier gifted him one of the simplest, but most important goals of his life. 4-2 to Belgium.
The win was incredible. The turn around from being nervous and barely able to execute basic skills, to resurrecting the Belgium we all know was stunning. The Germans were wiley and clever. Watching from the sidelines there was not one penalty corner defense where they did not start over the line and every injection was a foul but they nearly got away with it.
This sets up Germany vs Netherlands in the bronze match, where Germany are favourites having shown form throughout. The Dutch cannot be discounted of course but are definitely rocking from the shock loss to Spain. Spain are in the final, against most expectations but deservedly so based on their performance against the Netherlands where they took their chances and defended very well in a 4-2 win. Now Belgium have the chance to become both World and European Champions. Can they handle the pressure?