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Belgium stuns Argentina in Champions Challenge
Anand Philar | June 24, 2007 22:17 IST
Hosts Belgium pulled off a stunning 3-2 upset against Argentina to throw open the Champions Challenge men's hockey tournament in Belgium on Sunday.
Belgium, who had lost their opener to Japan [Images] 2-1, played an inspired game to upstage Argentina, the top ranked team in the competition at No.7, and 4-3 winners against England [Images] on Saturday.
Ranked No.13 in the world, Belgium had their hero in Gregoy Gucasoff who converted two penalty corners (6th, 32nd) in the first-half before Argentina struck back with a 40th minute goal by Juan Ignacio Gilardi, which also came through a penalty corner.
However, Belgium delivered the deathblow when Thomas Briels capped his lovely run after accepting a return pass from Jerome Truyens in the 55th minute. The third goal provided insurance to Belgium as Argentina scored in the 68th minute through Jorge Lombi's penalty corner conversion.
The result meant that New Zealand [Images], who had earlier beaten Japan 4-0, head the table with six points as the only unbeaten team in the competition so far.
A desperate Argentina threw everything they had at Belgium who soaked the pressure with goalkeeper Cedric Degreve having an outstanding game. Degreve brought off crucial saves, including a few from the eight penalty corners that Argentina forced.
Backed by a capacity crowd at the 3,000-seater stadium, Belgium caught Argentina off-guard with their spirited performance marked by well orchestrated moves and a decent, if not tight, defense.
Argentina, notorious for their inconsistent performance and suspect temperament, were done in by their own follies, which also resulted in a yellow card suspension of Pedro Ibarra in the 46th minute.
Ibarra's send-off was a crucial blow as Argentina, with Lombi on the bench, had none to take three penalty corners that came their way in quick succession as Giraldi, despite one conversion, was not equal to the task.