England’s World Cup dream was ended by Belgium at the semi final stage as the Olympic silver medal winners won with a comprehensive scoreline.
Danny Kerry’s side had performed superbly to get to this stage, but the Red Lions were sadly too good on the day and took a deserved victory.
England had a few half chances in the third quarter at 2-0 down, but Belgium stood firm and once they got a fourth right at the end of Q3, the Red Lions’ position was sealed.
For the third successive World Cup, England unfortunately lost at the semi final stage, and will now dig deep to play in the 3rd/4th game at 11am on Sunday.
With Kerry only a couple of months into the job, and with a whole host of new young players in the squad, the future remains bright and they will look to end the tournament on a high.
It was Belgium who drew first blood, Florent van Aubel bursting down the left, crossing for Tom Boon to finish past George Pinner on eight minutes.
The Red Lions continued to enjoy the majority of possession, and Boon was inches away from another goal, deflecting an effort onto the crossbar just before the end of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter Jack Waller did exceptionally well to release Barry Middleton on the break, but Phil Roper could not quite find a teammate inside the D.
With 19 minutes gone England were penalised inside their own D, and agonised over whether to refer the decision. Pinner saved the initial effort, but Simon Gougnard was on hand to lash home the rebound.
On 27, Sebastien Dockier should have made it three but shot past the upright with only Pinner to beat.
At half time, Danny Kerry told reporters he was looking for more endeavour up front, and his team responded with a their best spell of the game, Adam Dixon almost scoring from a penalty corner but goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch perhaps a touch fortunate to see it cleared on the line.
England were showing some purpose, but Belgium kept them at a distance, first blocking a David Condon effort before Harry Martin’s deflection was cleared.
However, Belgium’s quality shone through again when Cedric Charlier made it 3-0 with a rasping finish from an aerial.
Again England were a touch unfortunate from a corner as Luke Taylor’s effort almost evaded Vanasch, but once more Belgium punished England, Alexander Hendrickx smashing a corner past Pinner for 4-0 after Liam Sanford was penalised right at the end of the third quarter.
Four goals down in the final quarter, England understandably found it tough going, and with ten remaining Hendrickx scored another corner for 5-0. Then Dockier made it six as the Red Lions really put England to the sword.
It was a slightly cruel finish to the match, and Belgium moved ruthlessly into Sunday’s final after an excellent performance on their part. Kerry took his side into a huddle at full time and will no doubt have been asking them to hold their heads high following a superb run in this event.
With the FIH Pro League starting next month and Olympic qualification on the line in 2019, there is much to look forward to for hockey in Great Britain in the coming months. And first of all England aim for a bronze medal on Sunday.