Old rivalry re-ignited as Belgium end Kookaburras hot winning run

Published Thu 30 May 2024

The Kookaburras' fine run of form has come to a swift end in Europe, following a 5-1 loss to hosts Belgium in Antwerp.

Watch every Kookaburras & Hockeyroos FIH Pro League Match live and free on 7plus

Click here to see the Kookaburras & Hockeyroos FIH Pro League Match Schedule

The occasion was always primed to ignite a familiar rivalry between the two sides, as the two powerhouses of the sport have battled it out at the top for decades.

In recent years, it's gone Belgium's way, with the most notable being the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold-medal match where they claimed gold in that all-too-memorable penalty shootout. Ever since the Kookaburras have been out for redemption.

Coming into the match fresh off a solid training camp following their 5-0 clean Series sweep over India in Perth, the Kookaburras were arriving confident and ready to unleash their fast-attacking Aussie style of play against the European powerhouses.

Belgium were ready to snap their streak and it showed early, as they claimed the first penalty corner and sent it the way of their star midfielder Felix Denayer. 

Up 1-0 within seven minutes, Belgium pounced, sensing the momentum swing they put ACT's goalkeeper Andrew Charter under an immense attack.

Forced to save strike after strike, Belgium was relentless with four more shots on target inside the opening 10 minutes, Charter didn't buckle under the pressure and right before the half, the Kookaburras' defence would pay off.

Lithgow's Lachlan Sharp seized his moment with a fantastic field goal, relieving the pressure only momentarily as Belgium went on to score again with seconds remaining on the clock, before returning from the half-time break to produce a second-half clinic.

"The feeling right now is one of big disappointment," Kookaburras captain Aran Zalewski said post-match.

"We need to look at what we did with the ball in our attacking 30 going forward and the chance to be creative... I think we did enough to score more than one goal." 

Despite having achieved many come-from-behind wins against top teams this year, Aran says tightening up the defensive end will also be crucial moving forward. 

"Belgium are a really good opposition and like many of the European teams they just play a great style of hockey that challenges us.

"The start of the year has been great and there's a lot of evidence to say the way we play really stacks up so we just need to play our brand the way we want to play, as much as we want or as much as we can, during these matches and we'll be looking to bounce back.

The Kookaburras quickly turn their attention to their next match against Argentina in just 21 hours. They play the South American outfit at 12.30am AEST on Thursday morning, right after the Hockeyroos take on Argentina.

Kookaburras v Belgium
Kookaburras: 1 (Lachlan Sharp 15')
Belgium: 5 (Felix Denayer 8' & 29', Alexander Hendrickx 18', Nelson Onana 36', Thibeau Stockbroekx 48') 
In Antwerp, Belgium

Kookaburras: 3. Corey Weyer, 4. Jake Harvie, 5. Tom Wickham, 7. Nathan Ephraums, 11. Eddie Ockenden, 12. Jake Whetton, 17. Aran Zalewski (c), 22. Flynn Ogilvie, 23. Daniel Beale, 30. Andrew Charter (gk), 32. Jeremy Hayward, 1. Lachlan Sharp, 2. Tom Craig, 8. Johan Durst, 10. Joshua Beltz, 13. Blake Govers, 16. Tim Howard, 29. Tim Brand