Belfius EuroHockey Championship
Men’s semi-final: Belgium 4 (T Boon, N de Kerpel, V Wegnez, C Charlier) Germany 2 (R Ruhr, F Fuchs)
Belgium produced an incredible comeback from 2-0 down with 18 minutes to go to beat Germany 4-2, setting off the fireworks for the capacity 7,500 crowd who loved every moment of a wild game.
It was a game played a rip-roaring pace with drama a plenty as two of the world’s best side showcased their wares in front of a packed Wilrijkse Plein stadium.
Belgium went closest in the first quarter with Tom Boon ripping a drag-flick against the post. Thomas Briels flipped the ball past Victor Aly but Mathias Muller got back to save off the line a minute later.
But Germany were not lying down and they went in front when Mats Grambusch’s shot was plucked from underneath Vincent Vanasch’s pads and into the path of Christopher Ruhr who smashed into the goal.
Ruhr then created the second for a 2-0 lead, racing around the baseline and then working the ball to Florian Fuchs who gobbled up the chance.
Belgium were always creating corner opportunities, however, and they eventually made one stick via Boon who pulled the ball through Aly’s legs in the 42nd minute.
It came in a crazy minute of action. Germany had been awarded a penalty stroke but it was annulled on video review with goalkeeper Vanasch – who made several great saves – spotting the corner that led to the stroke was stopped by a hand.
For Vanasch, he said afterward it was something he had seen a long time ago but was waiting for the right moment to call for the video.
“I saw it a long time ago with Germany, all the way back at the Olympics in London when I was a young goalkeeper with another player,” he said.
“During the Pro League, I saw it again and I was waiting – maybe I need to wait for the Euros to see if they try it again. It was a good call on a good moment. I saw the videos and I was sure that it was on his hand.”
At 2-1 in the final quarter, Arthur van Doren got low to make an exceptional block and Vanasch tapped away a Lukas Windfeder drag as the crowd got louder and louder.
They were level with six minutes to go when de Kerpel was the calmest man in the house when he clipped home a penalty corner rebound at the back post after Aly’s save was never fully cleared; 2-2 with six minutes to go.
Wegnez then put Belgium in front in spectacular fashion, scoring a cracking reverse-stick shot in the 56th minute that sent the whole stadium wild,
And the comeback was complete soon after. A monster overhead out of defence from van Doren made its way all the way to Cedric Charlier in behind the last defender and once he controlled the ball, he had the simplest of tasks to roll home.
Reflecting on the win, de Kerpel said: “Germany were 2-0 in front but I don’t think it was deserved. It was hard to be in that position at half-time but we reacted well and after the game we deserve to be in the final.
“It was not that we had to change a lot at half-time, a little wake-up call. We had to win the 50-50 battles and we did that in the third quarter when the crowd really got behind us. We were unstoppable and it’s really nice to win like this!”
Spain are next on the agenda for Belgium in the final and de Kerpel said it will be a different story for the final than their 5-0 win in the group stage.
“We saw the three first quarters of Spain against Holland. If they get 1-0 in front, they are a really tough opponent. We have to score first and if we don’t, it will be a really hard game.
“5-0 in the group doesn’t matter. They have serious belief after they won against Holland so it will be a hard game.
“For me, it’s the first time like this. It’s the craziest experience I’ve had. I was in the crowd in Boom, shouting like hell. It’s different but as enjoyable.”
Umpires: J van ’t Hek (NED), C van Bunge (NED)
Belgium – Germany
21’ Christopher Ruhr (FG) 0-1
26’ Florian Fuchs (FG) 0-2
42’ Tom Boon (PC) 1-2
54’ Nicolas de Kerpel (PC) 2-2
56’ Victor Wegnez (FG) 3-2
58’ Cedric Charlier (FG) 4-2