Australia has won the silver medal in the Tokyo 2020 men’s hockey competition, despite a heartbreaking loss to Belgium in the final.
After 60 minutes of action, the top two teams in the world were locked at 1-1, with a penalty shoot-out required to split them and ultimately hand Belgium the gold medal.
Both teams started strong, each making numerous circle penetrations and applying early pressure on their opposition defense. However, as the first 15 minutes drew to a close, the score remained 0-0.
A counter-attack for Belgium required an early left-foot save for Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter in the second quarter as the world number 2 team got on the front foot. Taking control of possession, the Kookaburras were able to absorb the pressure, with Charter pulling out another save with his right hand.
After the half-time break, the Belgians kept the pressure on which would eventually see the Australian defense crack, with Florent van Aubel putting the ball into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
With five minutes of the quarter remaining, the Aussies went close to an equaliser off the back of a penalty corner, with the shot requiring a fantastic save from the pumped-up Belgian keeper.
As the final quarter got started, the Kookaburras had 15 minutes to mount a comeback and make a last grab for the gold medal. They needed no further motivation with the Aussies pouncing on a loose ball in the circle for a deflected shot to be tapped downwards into the goal by Tom Wickham, tieing the match at 1-1.
Tensions were high in the final 10 minutes, with one of the Belgians copping a nasty ball to the head before the Aussies successfully defended a penalty corner. From there, the Australians lifted and came home strongly however were unable to capitalise, as penalties beckoned to determine the gold and silver medallists.
After missing the first penalty, Australia hit back with two successful conversions, before a save from Charter drew it level at 2-2. However, another miss from the Kookaburras, and a successful penalty stroke conversion for Belgium, following a foul by Charter, required Jake Whetton to keep Australia in the match. It was not to be with Whetton missing the first shot before a dramatic call for a re-take was also missed, Belgium claiming their first men’s hockey gold.
While there was a disappointment on the night, a silver medal was still something to be incredibly proud of given the challenges of the last 18 months. To overcome isolation and a distinct lack of international matches compared to European opposition, the Kookaburras deserve to leave with their heads held high.