Hendrickx powers Belgium into Olympic final date with Australia

A hat-trick from Alexander Hendrickx helped Belgium’s Red Lions claim a 5-2 triumph over India, with the reigning world and FIH Hockey Pro League champions downing the eight-times Olympic gold medallists in a thrilling semi-final contest. 

It sets up a gold medal date with Australia on Thursday after the Kookaburras held off Germany 3-1 in their semi-final.

Despite the searing temperatures, Belgium made a fine start thanks to a perfectly executed penalty corner drag-flick from Loick Luypaert just 70 seconds into the contest.

However, India hit back with two quickfire goals to take a 2-1 lead into the quarter time break, with Harmanpreet Singh rattling the backboard with a penalty corner before Mandeep produced a stunning backhand strike from open play. 

Belgium restored parity when Hendrickx – who finished the game with a remarkable tally of 14 goals in seven matches – fired home an unstoppable penalty corner drag-flick. 

After a scoreless third quarter, Hendrickx won the tie with a corner and a stroke to make it 4-2 with seven minutes to go. And John-John Dohmen capped the win in the closing seconds with a finish into an open goal.

“It’s unbelievable”, said Belgium’s John-John Dohmen. “An Olympic medal is always the best memories we can have and now we will enjoy for 15 minutes maybe and then recover really well for the final because the gold is the objective. So it’s not finished!”

Commenting on hat-trick hero Hendrickx, Dohmen said: “I love this guy, he’s amazing. Always nice with the teammates and always ready to work really hard for the team. And this tournament is his tournament, of course, and I’m really happy for him. It’s amazing.”

In the second semi, goals from Tim Brand, Blake Govers and a late tap-in from Lachlan Sharp put the mighty Kookaburras into their first Olympic final since Athens 2004, Uhlenhorst Mülheim’s Lukas Windfeder having earlier equalised at 1-1.

Reflecting on his team’s defeat, Germany’s Mats Grambusch said: “We have to recognize that we are not dangerous enough in the opponent’s circle compared to Belgium and Australia.

“Australia has this quality of scoring goals with few chances. We are simply not making enough of the many opportunities and corners. In the end, what counts is what is on the scoreboard – it is of no use to you if you were superior. But we will also get out of this situation and get bronze on Thursday!”