Red Lions in tears after missing the hockey gold

The Belgian national hockey team, dubbed the Red Lions, fought like lions but lost the Olympic battle against those other Lions, Los Leones from Argentina, who won the final 4-2. The Belgians were extremely disappointed, as they felt it could have been more against an efficient Argentina that used its strongest weapon where the Belgians failed: the penalty corners.

Belgium had ousted the world's number 2, the Netherlands, 3-1 in the semi-finals while Argentina routed defending champions Germany 5-2, a shock exit for the Germans who won the bronze medal match against the Netherlands.

Belgium had a dream start, taking the lead through Tanguy Cosyns with less than 2 minutes gone. Belgium had scored more than any other team in the group matches, and looked set to keep the momentum. However, the Argentine Lions roared back, using their most dangerous weapon. They scored twice from 2 penalty corners and also netted a third goal even before half-time.

Belgium were in trouble, but their hopes received a boost when Gauthier Boccard set up a magnificent slalom in the penalty area, adding a strong finish: 3-2 in the 4th and final quarter.

Belgium had a couple of chances to equalise, but failed where Argentina didn't, missing two penalty corners in the final stage of the match. Belgium had a total of 6 penalty corners in the whole match, but didn't convert any of them.

Belgium had to take risks. Team Coach Shane McLeod of New Zealand substituted goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch to field an extra player. Argentina defended well and made the most of the extra space in the dying minutes if the game, with a counter-attack: 4-2.

Penalty corners made the difference

"We made too many mistakes and didn't benefit from our penalty corners. This can cost you dear against Argentina", Shane McLeod said.

"We had so many opportunities, we should have done better. If you don't take your chances, you can't win. It's as simple as that", captain John-John Dohmen said. "But one year ago, nobody would have bet money on this and here we are", he added, showing his silver medal.

Still, the disappointment reigned during the podium ceremony (see pictures below). Striker Tom Boon was seen crying on the podium and others also found it hard to hide their emotions.

Still historic

The hockey team was trying to emulate the success of the Belgian waterpolo team in Berlin 1936, when a Belgian team sport last managed to scoop Olympic Gold. This didn't work out, but it was still the best hockey result ever, as the hockey men took home the bronze in Antwerp in 1920. However, those were different times, with just a small number of teams taking part.

The Red Lions' silver takes Belgium's tally to 6 medals at these Olympics: 2 gold (cyclist Greg Van Avermaet in the men's road race and athlete Nafi Thiam in the women's heptathlon), 2 silver (swimmer Pieter Timmers in the 100 metres freestyle and the Red Lions) and 2 bronze medals (judoka Dirk Van Tichelt and Jolien D'hoore in the women's omnium in track cycling). This equals the success in Atlanta 1996.