It was widely anticipated to be a mouth-watering contest and the all-European derby at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwartruly truly lived up to it . Olympic and world champions Belgium were staring at the possiblity of playing in the crossover stage until Victor Wegnez got themselves out of jail with a face-saving equaliser five minutes from the final hooter, which ensured the Red Lions are on top of the tree in Pool B with a better goal average.
Germany have found it hard to navigate Belgium if their recent meet-ups are anything to go by – the Honamas had lost five of their last six games, their 2022-23 Pro League 3-2 was the only game where they came on top against the Red Lions. It did appear that a familiar script was unfolding as the Michel van den Heuvel-coached side settled well into the contest with a robust bout of passing play and literally called the shots in the opening quarter – their dominance translated into the opening goal scored via Cedric Charlier, who unleashed a rasping shot that beat German goalkeeper Andrew Charter all ends up.
The Andre Henning-coached German side look a transformed lot in the second quarter, and looked more assured as they moved upfront – Niklas Wellen gave them the equaliser and the momentum built close to half-time was continued by them as they posed constant threats to the Belgium citadel – Christopher Ruhr came close to scoring on several occasions but was denied by Vincent Vanasch.
Germany looked promising to go ahead when Nicolas de Kerpel’s nasty tackle on Marco Miltkau resulting the black brigade being awarded a penalty stroke – Tom Grambusch cooly converted it sending Vincent Vanasch the wrong way. The Honamas might have thought they had done enough to secure all-important three points with only seven minutes left for the final hooter until Victor Wegnez choose to play a spoiler. Germany lost their head in the closing moments as Christopher Ruhr was handed the marching orders – a five-minute yellow card for a harsh tackle on a Belgium player.
Germany would now look to wrap up their pool stage with a big win over South Korea and leapfrog Belgium on goal average to top Pool A, but it won’t be easy as Belgium are equally capable of posting a huge win over Japan in their concluding pool tie.