Belgium advanced to their first ever Olympic men’s hockey final as they produced a counter-attack masterclass to defeat the Netherlands 3-1.
They won a medal all the way back in 1920 when they hosted the tournament in Antwerp but have not been on the podium since. They will face an Argentina side who also have never been through to the decider, meaning there will be a new champion crowned on Thursday.
Belgium took a 2-1 lead into half-time thanks to goals from Jerome Truyens and John-John Dohmen. The former latched onto a penalty corner rebound after Tom Boon’s drag was repelled.
Three minutes later, Cedric Charlier did brilliantly to catch a high ball on the edge of the circle. His initial route to goal was blocked as he slipped but he spotted John-John Dohmen arriving at the right post and he squared the ball perfectly for the captain to slide onto.
The Netherlands, though, were not ready to capitulate and had their foothold in the game before the break when Mink van der Weerden scored his ninth goal of the competition from a penalty corner flick.
Indeed, he had two other efforts denied by the impressive Vincent Vanasch in the first half, showing the threat that the Dutch always posed. He also kept out what was thrown at him in the third quarter while the Belgians looked more dangerous in attacks.
Gauthier Boccard’s surging run set up Simon Gougnard but his sweep-shot arrowed just wide of the left post from a big moment. It left the game on a knife-edge going into the final quarter with just one goal in the difference.
33 seconds in the final quarter, Belgium extended that margin with another lovely move, Florent van Aubel and Thomas Briels exchanging passes with the former on hand to tip-in at the neat post for 3-1.
From there, they game flashed from end to end; in one direction, Vanasch brilliantly denied Rogier Hofman – at the other, Manu Stockbroekx was bursting through for Dockier to almost set up another goal.