The Kookaburras’ dream of an Olympic gold medal has ended in a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out but the result comes with a silver lining for a team who proved against all odds to be among the world’s best.
In a match full of suspense and emotion, Belgium emerged victorious 3-2 in the shootout after scores were locked 1-1 at full time.
The Europeans took an early lead in the cut-throat shoot-out, but their victory celebrations were premature with the video referee calling a foul and ordering a retake of the last attempt, giving the Kookaburras just one more chance to score.
But it was not to be, Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch proving the hero to give Belgium their first gold medal in Olympic men’s hockey history.
The Kookaburras’ silver medal capped a courageous campaign. They remained undefeated until the Gold Medal Match and showed tenacity, togetherness and a standard of hockey that was world class throughout the tournament despite a tumultuous preparation.
In the past 18 months, they played just six international matches against New Zealand leading into the Olympics due to COVID.
The silver medal positions the Kookaburras as one of the most successful teams in Australian Olympic history having won 10 medals since the sport made its debut in 1908.
Kookaburras 1 (Wickham 47’)
Belgium 1 (van Aubel 32’)
Belgium wins shootout 3-2
@ Oi Hockey Stadium, Tokyo
Kookaburras: 1.Lachlan Sharp, 5.Tom Wickham, 6.Matthew Dawson, 10.Josh Beltz, 11.Eddie Ockenden (c), 12.Jake Whetton, 13.Blake Govers, 14.Dylan Martin, 15.Josh Simmonds, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Aran Zalewski, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Daniel Beale, 29.Tim Brand, 30.Andrew Charter (gk), 32.Jeremy Hayward