Despite a good collective performance, the reigning European champions will not compete in a third consecutive final. They were beaten at the Shoot-Outs by Dutch people carried by their audience.
The poster for this semi-final was obviously enticing. A classic of recent years. A meeting between the Netherlands and Belgium always smacks of powder given the rivalry between nations. But this semi-final also meant the start of serious matters for the Belgian players who were well aware that their performances during the group stage could have been a little more successful. And it was the flock of Shane McLeod who also took the initiative and who were the most dangerous during the first period even if the score was still 0-0 when returning to the locker room.
The Red Lions dominated the first 30 minutes in terms of numbers (54% possession – 6 shots against 1 – 15 penetrations against 11 and 1 pc all over) but they could not deceive the vigilance of Pirmin Blaak. Yet the will was there on the attempts of Cédric Charlier, Tom Boon, John-John Dohmen (the most dangerous) or the penalty of Alexander Hendrickx. For his part, Vincent Vanasch should not really work before the break since with the exception of a penalty shot next to the goal by Jip Janssens, the Brussels resident was hardly under pressure.
After the break, Belgium deservedly took the lead in this part thanks to Nicolas De Kerpel, ideally served by Gauthier Boccard (34th). Very focused on their defensive task and on offensive conversions, the Lions retained control of the game after their goal. The tension was more and more palpable in the duels. More manly contacts. But you had to stay focused on your subject despite public pressure. The structure was perfectly in place and the Belgians left very few spaces for the local team.
2 mistakes that cost a lot
In the last quarter, Tom Boon had a wonderful possibility but Pirmin Blaak deflected the ball with the helmet. The second Dutch penalty did nothing either. But in the 52nd minute, following a loss of the ball from Sebastien Dockier at the entrance of the circle, Seve van Ass did not ask himself a question and sent a shell into the net of Vincent Vanasch. But the reaction was immediate and on the second Belgian penalty, Alexander Hendrickx restored the advantage to the reigning European champions (1-2). The Dutch did not give up and were then more and more urgent. They also obtained 2 pc in less than 60 seconds. On the first, Jip Janssens’ sleep was not on target but on the second, he found the right setting to place the ball just below Vincent Vanasch (56th).
It was therefore the shoot-outs that would determine the name of the second finalist at the end of the 60 minutes (2-2). The session was stressful and full of twists and turns with many hiccups (Victor Wegnez, Florent van Aubel, Arthur Van Doren on the Belgian side) and 3 video calls. But in the end, it was the Dutch who ended up emerging (3-1). The disappointment was terrible for the Red Lions who certainly deserved better given their performance during almost all of the meeting. “We deserved to win,” regretted Victor Wegnez. “We dominated this meeting and they only had very rare chances. But this defeat in the semi-finals is a good learning curve for the future. We have made a lot of progress this week and that is certainly the most important thing before entering the final stretch of preparation towards Tokyo. “
These are therefore details that allowed the local team to pick up the score twice in the last quarter of an hour. What to learn from other lessons for the rest of the preparation that will lead them to the Tokyo Games. Before that, the Belgians will apply one last time by meeting the English on their way (Saturday at 10 am) to compete for the bronze medal. A meeting with the scent of revenge for some who still have not digested the defeat during the group stage.