A year later than originally planned, today it was finally time for the first game of the Olympic hockey tournament in Tokyo. And here the Red Lions immediately had to face the Netherlands, in a remake of the recent semi-final of the European Championship … but then in the humid heat (32°C) of the Japanese capital.
The Belgians, with Briels in the squad as a replacement for a slightly injured Boon, started the match dynamically and in a controlled manner. On the other hand, the Dutch were also concentrated on hockey. The Belgians were well positioned, let the ball roll well and were strong in recuperation and conversion. This resulted in a number of attacks, which perhaps lacked the necessary venom, but which already gave up Belgian intentions.
At the beginning of the second quarter, De Kerpel deviated a center from Dockier in the Dutch goal. However, the Referee refused the goal because De Kerpel touched the ball with his body. However, the video requested by the Red Lions clearly indicated that the ball hit the hand with which the Red Lion was holding his stick, which should have been a goal. However, the video referee found that the images were not clear enough and indicated that he was unable to make a decision … it remained 0-0, but the Belgians retained their right to video. The first penalty corner of the game was for the Netherlands, but Van As dragged the ball far wide.
After the break, the game remained balanced, with slightly more attacking Belgians and the Orange who had to rely more on the counter. After five minutes, Jeroen Hertzberger received the ball all the way into the right corner of the field. The Dutchman dribbled freely along the back line and outwitted goalkeeper Vanash with a cunning lob. A little out of the blue it was 1-0.
The Belgians needed six minutes to equalize. This time, the Belgians were proved right by the video referee: PC for Belgium, on another wrongly disallowed goal by Briels. The moment for Alexander Hendrickx to start his Olympic counter: 1-1. A few minutes later, Hendrickx even scored a second time, this time on penalty after a mistake by a Dutch defender on Charlier (1-2). And at the very end of the third quarter, the Belgians PC forced second and third. Hendrickx drove the ball into the square untenable and thus completed his hat-trick. The Belgians led 1-3 with 15 minutes to go.
The Red Lions continued to play hockey very concentrated and carefully and didn’t miss a lot. The Netherlands seemed lost. Suddenly they were even on the field with 12, which resulted in a yellow card to captain Bakker. The Belgians continued to build up nicely and create opportunities. Briels found Dockier all alone at the head of the circle, which could dock undisturbed. Unfortunately, his shot went just wide. The Red Lions were able to finish the game without further danger.
With this 1-3 win, the Red Lions start very strong in Tokyo2020! In any case, this immediately gives perspective for the quarter-finals. But beware, the tournament is still long.