Photo Credit : World Sport Pics

Finally, the ‘moneytime’ in the Olympic hockey tournament has arrived! Today the quarterfinals for the men were on the program in Tokyo. In the morning, Germany (3-1 against Argentina) and Australia (3-0 in the shoot-outs against the Netherlands) already qualified for the semi-finals on Tuesday. India will face Great Britain in the final quarterfinal of the day. But just before that, it’s the Red Lions’ turn to try to get a place in the last four, by beating Spain.

Tonight Shane McLeod was able to field his typing squad for the first time in this tournament. With the injuries of Boon, De Kerpel, Hendrickx – with an impressive ‘samourai bandage’ around the head – Wegnez and Gougnard all behind them, Briels and Meurmans are reserve today.

There was immediately a lot more intensity in the actions of the Belgians compared to. the two previous games, but you also felt the pressure of the importance of this game weighing on the shoulders of both teams. That gave a rather closed first quarter, with hardly any chances, except for one penalty corner on each side. 

At the Spanish PC Vincent Vanasch showed that he was on the ball, with a mighty stick reflex. The PC for the Belgians came after a nice action by Boon on the left. Hendrickx fired a decent shot, but goalkeeper Cortes imitated his Belgian colleague with a great save.

Apart from some changes that weren’t quite there yet, you could really feel the Belgians getting into the game better in the second quarter and starting to put more pressure on the Spaniards. Dohmen sent a hard ball to van Aubel who extended on Dockier. The deviation of the Antwerp resident went a few millimeters wide. 

In the tenth minute of the second quarter, Belgium got a second PC, but this was nicely finished by a Spanish defender. One minute later the unbelievable happened on the other side! Alegre came up from the left and ‘flicked’ at goal… from 20cm outside the circle. The ball was deflected into goal by a Belgian defender and the referee considered this a goal. 

However, the video showed very clearly that the original ball came from outside the Belgian circle. But video referee Van Bunge coolly confirmed the call from the field referee. This 0-1 for Spain was an absolute disgrace! The Lions had been hit and couldn’t really react before the break.

After four minutes in the second half, it became almost catastrophic for Belgium, but Vanasch was slightly faster on the ball than the Spanish defender with the stick. Four minutes later, justice came. Hendrickx again equalized the Lions with a hard drag on the fourth PC (1-1). 

What a quarter! One minute later Quemada dragged against the post on PC for Spain, while on the other side Hendrickx almost hit again. Pinoké’s player’s drag, however, was boxed out of its target by Cortes. On the rebound Dockier ‘shot’ the Spanish goalkeeper, who still didn’t give in. 

But Boon poured all his frustration into the second rebound and drove the ball into the roof: 2-1. In the last two minutes of the third quarter, Vanasch showed his world class twice more:

With 15 minutes left to play, the Red Lions were leading 2-1… but it was going to be 15 nail-biting minutes! The Spaniards started to press very high and the pressure on the Belgian defense was enormous. 

The Belgians tried to get out of the pressure, but too often forgot to play as a team, which resulted in a series of losses on the ball. It was hard, but they held up. With 3min48 on the clock it was again PC for the Belgians. 

And ‘Jimi’ Hendrikx, with headband, was once again on the roll. He mercilessly blazed the redeeming 3-1. A few last Spanish convulsions didn’t change the score anymore. Belgium was in the semi-finals … but it had taken blood, sweat and tears!

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