Belgium strike double Aussie hockey blow

Murray Wenzel |

Nearly three years on from their Tokyo loss, the Kookaburras have been beaten again by Belgium.
Nearly three years on from their Tokyo loss, the Kookaburras have been beaten again by Belgium.

The Kookaburras are licking their wounds after hosts Belgium inflicted a 5-1 drubbing to begin the side’s final tournament before the Olympics.

Australia’s men were swamped in their Pro League opener in Antwerp by the team that pipped them in a shootout for Tokyo gold three years ago.

It was a one-sided affair on Thursday morning (AEST), Belgium scoring the final four goals in an emphatic return to form after back-to-back losses to unheralded Ireland.

Australia play Argentina on Friday morning, one of seven more games on the tour of Belgium and England that will serve as a final selection trial for the Paris Games in July-August.

“The feeling right now is one of big disappointment,” Kookaburras captain Aran Zalewski said.

“I think we did enough to score more than one goal.”

It was only the side’s second loss from nine Pro League games in a campaign that began in May, while they also swept a plucky Indian team 5-0 in Perth earlier this year.

“The start of the year has been great and there’s a lot of evidence to say the way we play really stacks up,” Zalewski said.

“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 Hockeyroos also lost to Belgium in a nailbiter between the world’s No.4 and 5 respectively.

The hosts equalised from a penalty corner with just 25 seconds remaining after Brooke Peris’s go-ahead goal less than two minutes earlier looked to have won it for Australia.

That forced a shootout, won by Belgium 3-2.

“It was a really hard-fought game and I really thought we had them at the end there, but it wasn’t meant to be and I look forward to playing them again,” captain Kaitlin Nobbs said.

The Hockeyroos (4-1-4), will also back up against world No.2 Argentina (9-1-3) on Friday.