New Delhi: India beat Belgium 3-2 in the penalty shootout to enter the semifinals of Hockey World League Final 2017. It was a thriller as Rio Olympics silver medalists Belgium bounced back thrice in the regulation time to make it 3-3 at the full-time whistle. The game remained level even in the penalty shootout as India won the quarterfinal in sudden death at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar.
During the allotted 60 minutes, India scored through Gurjant Singh (31st minute), Harmanpreet Singh (34th) and Rupinder (46th), while Loick Luypaert (38th and 46th) converted two penalty corners to lead the Belgian fightback before Cedric Charlier (52nd) scored the equaliser after Rupinder’s goal. The hosts took the lead thrice in the game but they failed to contain it every time, which caused the match to go into the penalty shootout.
However, as was the case in the match, India took the lead in the shootout but the world no. 3 Belgium fought back as the five-a-side chances ended in a score of 2-2 after goalie Akash Chikte blocked four Belgian attackers during the shootout, while Lalit Upadhyay, Rupinder Pal Singh were on the mark for India.
Finally, it was Harmanpreet who scored in sudden death while Chikte saved the subsequent Belgian attempt to seal the game for the Men in Blue.
The Indian team, due to their inconsistency, had finished the group stage at the bottom of Pool-B with 2 defeats and a draw from 3 games. The hosts drew with world champions Australia, before losing to England and Germany.
On the other hand, Belgium topped Pool-A with wins in all the 3 matches. They defeated Spain, Argentina and the Netherlands.
Earlier in the day, defending champions Australia thrashed Spain 4-1 to storm into the semifinals of the tournament. The other two quarterfinal matches will be played on December 7, with England facing Argentina, and Germany taking on the Netherlands.
The semi-finals will take place on Friday and Saturday, while the summit clash is slated for December 10, Sunday.