After a night of ‘typhoon’ in the Japanese capital, we could hope for slightly cooler temperatures… But nothing, after the rain it quickly became 32°C again and if possible even more humid. Fortunately, the Red Lions had an evening game scheduled for Tokyo 2020 against South Africa today.
With Nicolas De Kerpel’s ankle injury (2 matches out), this was the perfect moment to integrate a completely fit Tom Boon into the team. In addition, national coach McLeod also opted to give playing minutes to Augustin Meurmans and to give Antoine Kina some rest.
The game started at a fairly slow pace, which immediately gave the South Africans some confidence, with a dangerous first shot that went just wide of the post. A little later, John-John Dohmen stormed into the circle on the left. His backhand center was misdirected into his own goal by a defender. Belgium led 1-0. But the ball just started rolling again, when it was already tied thanks to a nice backhand shot from Dayaan Cassiem. Everything could be redone for the Belgians, who decorated a first penalty corner in the ninth minute. This was immediately dragged in by the inevitable Alex Hendrickx, for his fifth of the tournament (!): 2-1. A little later, Denayer recovered a ball in midfield, found Charlier on the left in the circle that extended in one time on a diving Briels who pushed the ball into the goal. A nicely executed team action for the 3-1. In the fourteenth minute it was Arthur Van Doren – who played his 200th game for the Red Lions today – who was able to run freely into the circle and finish nicely in backhand: 4-1. And in the closing seconds of the first quarter, John-John Dohmen shot in a fifth (5-1).
The second quarter started strong again for the Belgians, because the second PC was also cashed in hard by Hendrickx: 6-1. Two minutes later, a South African defender sent a fantastic high ball from his circle to the head of the Belgian circle. The ball was beautifully controlled by Mustapha Cassiem (brother of), who finished with a nice backhand shot for the 6-2. Simon Gougnard also scored his goal shortly afterwards, thanks to another superb backhand shot from the left. But the South Africans kept coming, with technical and fast play. And at the end of the first half, Ntuli was able to score another for his country, with a subtle ball between Vanasch’s legs. At halftime it was 7-3.
After the break, it was South Africa that got off to a quicker start, with a quick goal from Dayaan Cassiem again (7-4) after careless play by the Belgians (7-4). Fortunately, the Lions continued to score on the other side. First thanks to a new PC from Hendrickx, then thanks to a hard backhand from Charlier, on a nice pass from Boccard. The Belgians were comfortably in the lead again with 9-4.
Not much else worth mentioning happened in the last quarter. The Belgians played the ball around, without really finding an opening. Of course it wasn’t really necessary anymore. Final score 9-4.
The Belgians did score many goals today, but did not play their best defensively and also conceded too easily goals. This will have to be tinkered with if the Red Lions want to get far in this tournament. But nine out of nine, that is indeed a good start for our Red Lions!