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New Champions on podium augurs well for hockey (12/21/2018)
--Errol D’Cruz
Belgium, by lifting the World Cup in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, suggested that winds of change have begun to sweep world hockey’s top podium. undefined

Coming after Argentina’s triumph at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Belgium’s success has meant consecutive major global tournaments have produced first-time winners.

A whiff of fresh air for the sport at large.

The Red Lions clinched their first ever major global title (Olympics or World Cup) at the Kalinga Stadium beating the Netherlands in a shootout.

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Belgium became only the sixth nation to inscribe their name on the magnificent trophy after edging past the Netherlands in a shootout at the Kalinga Stadium.

Belgium could have earned the distinction at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Argentina, however, had ambitions of their own and beat the Red Lions 4-2 in the final to become the ninth nation to win an Olympic men’s gold medal.

Argentina’s triumph broke a 32-year wait for a new name to emerge on hockey’s top podium after Australia won the 1986 World Cup in Willesden, England.

In the 1970s, times were a changing. Hockey as well.

The rules were being tweaked to increase the flow and raise spectator appeal, playing methods and formations were being overhauled and the playing surface itself was in the process of being changed from grass to plastic. It augured well for the sport. undefined

(West) Germany brought the 44-year-old India-Pakistan hegemony to an end when they won the 1972 Munich Olympic gold. Pakistan were the beaten finalists with the only goal deciding it.

The Netherlands followed suit at the World Cup next year. The Dutch beat India in a shootout to win the 1973 World Cup – their first major title ever.

Then, New Zealand, on an artificial surface first used at an FIH global major, turned the hockey world upside down to clinch the 1976 Montreal Olympic gold with a 1-0 win over neighbours Australia.

(Pic Opp: Germans on the Munich victory podium )

It took 10 years for a new name to emerge on either the World Cup or Olympic podium. And it came in the form of Australia, who at long last won their first global major title by lifting the World Cup at Willesden, England. Long knocking on the doors, the Aussies beat the hosts and bitter rivals 2-1 in the final.

Great Britain won the 1988 Seoul Olympic gold medal with a 3-1 win over (West) Germany. A refreshment in many ways, but in the early days of Olympic hockey, England and Great Britain won the 1908 and 1920 titles respectively. Technically, it wasn’t a new nation to win an Olympic title. undefined

Then, after a wait of over three decades came the Argentinean epic and like the Bristol double-decker buses, another followed quickly when Belgium roared to victory in Bhubaneswar.

Curiously, The Red Lions triumph came a little over three months after a new force emerged in Asia. Japan clinched the gold medal after a dramatic victory over Malaysia in the Asian Games final in Jakarta, Indonesia, via the shootout.

That came a good 32 years after South Korea ended a two-horse race between India and Pakistan by winning the 1988 Seoul Asiad. A 2-1 win over Pakistan in the final brought the Koreans the honour.

Pics Top & Bottom s2h photographer Rakesh Raul

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