Belgium’s men made it two wins from two as a dominant first half performance put them out of sight of Spain, becoming the first side to reach the semi-finals of the EuroHockey Championships in Mönchengladbach, Germany.
It came at the end of a rocking day with the SparkassenPark completely full for moving day in the men’s group stages.
For the Red Lions, early strikes from William Ghislain and Florent Van Aubel created the buffer they desired early on and an Alexander Hendrickx blast at goal pushed them further clear.
Jose Basterra nicked one back but another Hendrickx goal and a beautiful team goal, finished by Nelson Onana, concluded a 5-1 success.
Elsewhere in Pool A, England eventually broke through the Austrian defences to record their first win of the competition, a 3-0 success to lift them to three points.
Second half goals from James Oates, James Albery and Nick Bandurak saw them land their first points of the group, setting up a straight decider between them and Spain on Wednesday for a semi-final spot.
In Pool B, hosts Germany put on a show to amp up the decibel level in the stadium. Most of the damage was done in the first five minutes where two goals left the Dutch always in arears and, despite many chances, they could not make it by Jean-Paul Danneberg.
The Germans pinned their opponents back from the start with Niklas Wellen’s thrust from the left baseline inviting Justus Wiegand to step in and touch into the goal.
Wellen was credited with the second when he again got to the baseline and his cross was deflected in by a Dutch foot, 2-0 with exactly five minutes on the clock.
And then the third arrived before half-time from a breathtaking move out of defence, Teo Hinrichs taking on possession before delivering the perfect pass for Malte Hellwig to attack space. His tomahawk evaded the efforts of Maurits Visser.
“Really crazy to play in front of so many friends and German fans!” said player of the match Danneberg. “We did start very slow but now it is not so important. We showed the world today we are a high-performance team and we are now back in the tournament and looking forward.
“It’s unbelievable to play in front of a crowd like this. We don’t have it often, but it does give us extreme emotion!”
Germany adds the win to their draw against Wales to lead the group, knowing a draw against France will see them through.
For the French, Viktor Lockwood stepped up to score two penalty corners to propel them to their first win, getting one over Wales and giving them a shot at the semi-final spots.
He took on the duties in place of the unavailable Victor Charlet who missed out on the competition through injury. He fired into the backboard in the 33rd minute and then made sure of the win when he scored a similar effort with three minutes remaining.
Simon Martin-Brisac said it was a vital result for the team’s psychology: “That was a really important win for us and a bit of revenge. Our last three games in competition against them we lost so this was a very good for us.
“The first 10 minutes were very tough for us but then we defended really well and the victory was logical because we had the best opportunities. It is a relief because it’s like our ‘chat noir’.
It also keeps alive those final four chances: “We have a quarter-final against Germany; we know it will be tough against the world champions but you never know in sport. We will do our best in front of thousands of people! But, right now, I am just thinking about the three points!”
Tuesday sees the conclusion of the women’s pools with each semi-final spot still to be formally decided.
England face Scotland (12.30 CET) with the former looking to build on their three points while the Scots seek their first win of the competition.
That is in Pool B which will conclude in the evening (7.30pm CET) with Ireland hoping to grab a result against the hugely impressive hosts Germany.
Pool A starts with the Netherlands only needing a point against lowest ranked Italy at 2.45pm (CET). Then Spain meet Belgium in what looks to a showdown for the other semi-final spot on offer at 5pm (CET).
** You can watch every game live wherever you are in the world with www.eurohockeytv.org available in all regions except Belgium, Germany and Latin America. For further information on where to watch, go to: https://www.fih.hockey/events/euro-hockey-championship-germany/where-to-watch