Belgium and South Africa came up against each other for the first time in history in the junior ranks as the 2021 Junior World Cup got underway in Odisha.
The Belgians were the runners up in 2016 and with the senior side being the Olympic champions there is massive optimism around the Red Lions at this tournament.
A tough opening 10 minutes saw the Belgians settle quicker and take advantage of their early dominance with a cool finish by Roman Duvekot to take the lead from a penalty corner.
Despite their dominance in the opening exchanges, the Belgians were met with stern South African resilience to deny them.
Taine Bird making a number of interventions to deny the Europeans. As the game headed towards the final minutes of the opening quarter, the South Africans struck back though. South Africa won back-to-back penalty corners, before Jacques van Tonder fired a bullet past Feldheim to pull level.
Despite a far more competitive second quarter the South Africans found themselves 2-1 down after a wonderful solo run from Nelson Onana was finished superbly through Taine Bird’s legs. South Africa were not displeased with a 2-1 half time score line and looked to come out firing in the second half.
They did that with a penalty corner within 60 seconds as another penalty corner was won, but the opportunity was missed as Guy Morgan fired wide. The miss would be costly as Duvekot notched up his second of the game on the verge of the whistle ending the third quarter. A wonderful reverse strike finish gave the South Africans no chance and made it 3-1.
The Belgians would ramp home their advantage in the final quarter to add some gloss to the score as Arno van Dessel and Rik van Cleynenbreugel both netted. It was an early statement of intent from the Red Lions and one that most teams around the tournament would take notice of.
The South Africans are next in action when they take on Chile at 06:00 on Friday 26 November. The match will be live on the FIH Watch Hockey app, available for free download on both major app stores.