Day 13 (Evening): Belgium won the men’s field hockey Olympic gold medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a dramatic shoot-out victory against Australia thanks to a heroic goalkeeping performance from Vincent Vanasch.
The Olympic silver medallists from Rio 2016 went one step higher up the podium this time around, with Vanasch – a two-times FIH Men’s Goalkeeper of the Year – denying three Australian players in the one-on-ones, as the Red Lions added the Olympic crown to the World Cup they won in India three years ago. As well as earning the much coveted Olympic gold medal, the result means that Belgium have moved back to number one in the FIH World Rankings.
The gold medal match was incredibly tense throughout, with the two finest men’s hockey teams on the planet proving themselves inseparable for the vast majority of a fierce, high-quality contest. Both Vanasch and Andrew Charter, his opposite number in the Australian goal, made some stunning saves before the deadlock was finally broken early in the third quarter when Florent Van Aubel pounced from close range with a cunning, lifted finish.
Australia pulled level thanks to Tom Wickham’s brilliant overhead tap-in, showing his predatory instincts to force the ball over the line after both Flynn Ogilvie and Aran Zalewski kept the ball alive in the Belgian circle.
Both teams had chances late on, but in the end, it came down to a shoot-out to separate the two highest ranked teams in the world, giving the sensational Vanasch a chance to shine. The shot-stopper gave Belgium an early advantage when he saved Australia’s first attempt, slapping the ball away from the stick of Blake Govers before Van Aubel and Arthur de Sloover netted either side of Flynn Ogilvie to give Belgium a 2-1 lead.
Australia’s Tim Brand scored to keep the pressure on the Belgians, who then missed their next attempt when the usually calm and collected Felix Denayer lost control, with Australia’s Andrew Charter making the save.
However, when Vanasch denied the effort of Joshua Simmonds and competition top scorer Alexander Hendrickx slotted home a penalty stroke after Charter had fouled Victor Wegnez, the pressure was all on Australia’s midfield dynamo Jake Whetton. The Australian player hit the post, and Belgium’s players exploded in celebration, but an Australian video referral ruled that Vanasch had accidently fouled Whetton before his shot, resulting in a re-award.
However, Vanasch took the moment in his stride, stepping out to save Whetton’s second attempt and spark scenes of utter jubilation from all members of the Belgian contingent, and leave level-headed coach Shane McLeod unable to control his emotions, crying tears of joy.
“It’s history again,” said shoot-out hero Vincent Vanasch. “It was history at the World Cup, at the European Championships and now it’s history at the Olympics. I will cherish that moment for a long time. This team is a dream team.”
Commenting on his performance and how he handles himself in shoot-out situations, Vanasch said, “It’s just that we train so much. I’m like a musician, it’s a rehearsal and then you come to the concert and it comes naturally. That’s how I come on the pitch. I’m composed, but also I trust myself, I trust my reflexes and you can learn that from experience and that’s why today I did something like this.”
Australia captain Eddie Ockenden said: “It was a tough match. It was a close game but I thought we had the running at the end and couldn’t quite get there. Shoot-outs are tough. I prefer extra time. We couldn’t get it done in the shootout.”
A shoot-out defeat was a tough ending to a superb Australian campaign here in Tokyo, but they will be determined to upgrade silver for gold at the Olympic Games Paris 2024, just as Belgium have done this evening here at the Oi Hockey Stadium.
Earlier in the day, India claimed an Olympic medal for the first time since winning gold at Moscow 1980, beating Germany 5-4 in one of the most dramatic bronze medal matches in Olympic history.
India fought back from 3-1 down to claim a sensational 5-4 victory over Die Honamas to seal their place on the podium this evening, with goals from Simranjeet Singh (2), Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Hardik Singh denying Germany a medal at a fourth successive Olympic Games (Gold: Beijing 2008, London 2012, Bronze: Rio 2016).
Women’s finals tomorrow
The Hockey competition of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 enters its final day tomorrow, with the women’s medals being decided. The bronze medal match will take place on Friday 6 August, with Great Britain and India going-head-to head at 10:30 Japan Standard Time (UTC/GMT +9). GB are targeting a third Olympic medal on the bounce following bronze at London 2012 and gold at Rio 2016, while India, already guaranteed to match their previous best finish (4th – Moscow 1980), have the chance to create a moment of sporting history by claiming a first Olympic medal in women’s hockey.
The women’s hockey gold medal match takes place at 19:00 will see hot favourites the Netherlands taking on Argentina. The Dutch are now just one win away from being in possession of the World, European, FIH Hockey Pro League and Olympic titles. However, they are not expected to have everything their own way against Las Leonas. Fascinatingly, Argentina were the last team to beat the Netherlands, inflicting defeat on the Dutch during their FIH Hockey Pro League encounter in Buenos Aires in February 2020, with the Oranje claiming a 3-1 victory the following day.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – Hockey competitions
5 August 2021 – Day 13
Result – Bronze medal match
Bronze: Germany 4-5 India
Gold: Australia 1-1 Belgium (2-3 After Shoot-Out)
All times Japan Standard Time (UTC/GMT+9)
Women’s medal matches – 6 August 2021
10:30 – Bronze – Great Britain v India
19:00 – Gold – Netherlands v Argentina
Final Standings – Men
Gold – Belgium
Silver – Australia
Bronze – India