Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

High-flying Belgium set the tone ahead of the knockouts in their final Pool B match of the FIH Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 by drubbing Japan 7-1 in a lop-sided match at the Birsa Munda International Stadium in Rourkela on Friday.

The defending champions topped their pool with seven points.

The defending champions put up a dominating display with their speed passing and accurate penetrating skills to strike as many as six field goals. However, they failed to convert any of their seven penalty corners. One goal came from a penalty stroke.

The first quarter ended goalless despite aggressive hockey displayed by the superior Belgium side. However, their possession and persistence paid off in the second quarter with as many as four goals. Charlier Cédric opened the account for them in the 17th minute.

Tom Boon then got off the mark in the tournament with a hat-trick within just six minutes span. For the first goal, he held off two defenders using his strength before reverse flicking the ball high into the bar. He then capitalised on a failed clearance to slot his second strike to sound the board. He rounded off his third with a deft deflection from Sebastien Dockier’s assistance.

Japan got a goal through Fakudo Kentaro to start the fourth quarter when he got a touch to redirect Seren Tanaka’s backhanded effort in the 45th minute.

Japan continued their late found momentum, but Belgium were opportunistic enough to strike twice against the run of the game through Boon and Dockier. Boon turned the face of his stick to guide Florent van Aubel’s pass and was involved in a quick interchange in play from the right side to release Dockier, who finished emphatically on the slide.

Boon rounded of the scoring for the Red Lions with his fifth from a penalty stroke and it was the seventh goal for his team.