Australia (WR:5) and Belgium (WR:13) went head-to-head in the second Pool D match of the day. The first quarter passed without any goals although there is little doubt that the Hockeyroos were the stronger team in the opening salvos. Their strong build-up play and willingness to run at defenders saw the 2014 World Cup silver medallists rack up a number of shots on goal, although none of them were enough to beat Aisling D’Hooghe in the Belgium goal.
As the second quarter counted down however, the Red Panthers began to find their feet and the play evened out. Stephanie Vanden Borre showed a sublime piece of skill to take the ball out of her own defence and release Anne-Sophie Weyns but the Australia defence looked rock solid as they stuck to the Belgium forwards like glue.
The second half saw Belgium grow in confidence as the Australia threat failed to produce a goal. Where Australia were using their strength and speed to spread the ball around, Belgium were soaking up the pressure and then looking to make quick breaks through the centre of the field. The tactic nearly worked as Alix Gerniers wriggled past two Australia sticks to release Anne-Sophie Weyns. Weyns shot was stopped by Rachael Lynch, who then showed her class to recover and save the rebounded shot.
Still Australia kept knocking on the door, Jodie Kenny lined up for a trademark penalty corner but the Belgium defence held firm.
The Red Panthers created their own chances, with Stephane Vanden Borre and Michelle Struijk particularly causing problems for the Australia defence. Lynch was called into action when Louise Versavel had the ball on the edge of the circle. The ‘keeper was quickly off her line to close down the danger.
After the game Lynch said: “We knew it would be a hard game and we had to be ‘on’ every minute of the game. We had some good patches, where we did some really good things and we got lots of opportunities, but then they did too.”
“Belgium are a good team and they can be unpredictable but we stuck to our game plan. For the next game our penalty corners need to be better. At this level they are crucial.”
Belgium’s Stephanie Vanden Borre said: “We had a difficult start and we were finding it difficult to play our game but in the second half we grew into the game.
“Two years ago we really started to increase our physical preparation. We are the best state of fitness we can be. We have just been training, training, training.
“We have a training session called ‘turnover Thursday, where we train under duress, this has really helped us to improve our thinking and decision making.”
Images: Perspective Photography