Belgium, USA crowned hockey champions – SuperSport

After 16 days of top-class international action at the Wits Astro in Johannesburg, USA and Belgium emerged as the women’s and men’s winners of the Hockey World League on Sunday.

For the American women it was a particularly special victory considering they had lost two of their matches (one of those against South Africa) in the pool stages of the tournament. And with just over two minutes to go in the final against Germany, it looked like they were destined for another defeat.

Germany had put immense pressure on the US defence throughout most the match and they were finally rewarded for their efforts when Camille Nobis deflected the ball in off a shot from Marie Mavers in the 38th minute.

The Germans looked well on their way to victory but the Americans came back at them in the dying minutes. When Amelie Wortmann was sent off with two and a half minutes to play, the pressure was really on Germany, who then succumbed and gave away a penalty stroke. USA’s Taylor West lifted it in to the top left corner for the equaliser, which ultimately sent the match into a shootout.

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The USA would have been licking their lips at that prospect, considering they booked their spot in the final with a shootout victory over England in the semifinal just a few days ago. And once again, they proved to be masters at it. Tied at 2-2 after four attempts each, Germany’s Franzisca Hauke’s shot took four tenths of a second too long to cross the line in the allocated eight seconds so didn’t count. That meant if USA scored on their final attempt they’d win the match.

At just 17 years old, Erin Matson showed incredible composure as she stepped up to do the honours, making it look easy as she slotted it past German keeper Lisa Schneider for the 3-2 victory.

“It feels incredible,” said USA captain Melissa Gonzalez, who was later named player of the tournament.

“For me the shootout was just fun. We just had the mentality of – it is what it is, it’s hockey, it’s fun. There’s going to be a winner and a loser so we just approached it from that mental aspect. We practise them all the time and I was fortunate – some nights if works and some it doesn’t.

“We had 11 retirements after the Rio Olympics so a lot of our young girls haven’t ever played against players of this level before. But they just stepped up, they’re willing to learn and I can’t say enough good things about them.”

As for 17-year-old Matson, Gonzalez added: “We’re so proud of her. We joked that we still need her parents’ signatures on things when we travel abroad but she’s great. She’s exciting to watch, she’s skilful and I’m really excited to see what kind of player she turns out to be because right now she’s doing great things for us.”

Meanwhile, the Belgian men’s 6-1 victory over Germany was a far more straightforward affair. Having lost out to the Germans in the pool stages of the tournament, the Belgians looked determined and ruthless throughout the final.

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Already 4-1 down by halftime, the Germans upped their intensity in the third quarter. And while that did stop the free flow of Belgian scoring, they could not convert the pressure into goals for themselves. Belgium were back in the fourth quarter though – their penultimate goal a sensational deflection in by Cedric Charlier off a shot from somewhere near the halfway line. They were simply too good on the night and their pool loss was well and truly avenged.

In the other matches played on the final day of Hockey World League action at the Wits Astro, England defeated Argentina 5-2 for third place in the women’s tournament and Australia beat Spain 8-1 for bronze in the men’s event.



1. USA

2. Germany

3. England

4. Argentina
5. South Africa

6. Japan

7. Ireland

8. India

9. Chile

10. Poland


1. Belgium

2. Germany

3. Australia

4. Spain

5. Ireland

6. New Zealand

7. France

8. Egypt
9. South Africa

10. Japan

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