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Australia vs Belgium men’s hockey final, Kookaburras, news, score, silver medal, penalty shootout

Australia will have to wait another day to break their Olympic record of 17 gold medals, after the Kookaburras agonisingly went down to Belgium in a penalty shootout.

On Sunday, Andrew Charter saved three goals against the Netherlands to progress past the quarter-final.

Four days later, the penalty shootout ended the Kookaburras’ hopes of winning their second gold medal in men’s hockey, 17 years after winning in Athens.

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Australia’s defeat was a slow, painful one.

A video referral saved Jacob Whetton once, after the video umpire found a foul from goal-keeper Vincent Vanasch after the Australian struck the post.

Given a reprieve, Whetton was denied again as Belgium won the penalty shootout 3-2.

Vanasch roared, Australia’s Kookaburras slumped to the turf as others rallied around Whetton.

“He won’t be alone tonight,” goal-keeper Andrew Charter said of his teammate.

“All of us have something that we could have done a little bit better today but we left it all out there.

“Yeah Jake is the guy who’s in the moment at the very end, but I could have saved another one.

“It’s a collective effort from all of us and we all feel the pain together.

“It’s a tough way to lose a gold medal.

“We didn’t want it to go to penalty shootouts.

“We had the lion’s share at the end. If you let it go to a shootout it can be a bit of a coin toss, and that’s how it is.”

For Belgium, their victory came five years after they lost the gold medal match to Argentina in Rio.

Since then, they had claimed almost everything world hockey has to offer and came into the match ranked behind Australia as second in the world.

As Belgium’s players roared with triumph, New Zealand coach Shane McLoud took himself to the dug out and buried his head in his hands and cried.

Twenty metres away Australia’s players struggled to contain their emotions.

Moments later, coach Colin Batch, who was an assistant when they won gold in Athens, gathered the group in a huddle and addressed the team.

“Extremely proud,” Batch said.

“They’re hurting at the moment, they wanted the gold medal, they did everything they could, so it’s quite hard right now to console the players.

“They had a great campaign, they did everything we asked of them.

“It’ll hurt for sometime, but we’re enormously proud of what they’ve achieved and in time, upon reflection, we’ll have some joy in the silver medal.

“We just weren’t good enough in the shootouts, but full credit to the way we played in the second half.

“I said to the guys it’ll hurt for a long time. It’s not easy to get to an Olympic final and we did achieve that.”

Their silver medal is their best result at a Games since they won gold in Athens.

Earlier, the Kookaburras came close to pinching the match as Tom Wickham scored early in the fourth quarter to level the score at 1-1.

The Kookaburras were on the back foot for most of the match, as Charter kept Australia alive in the first half with a series of stunning saves.

It was not until Florent van Aubel put Belgium in front in the seconds after half-time that the Kookaburras sprung into action after a nervy opening half.

Despite a late attacking raid on Belgium, the Kookaburras will rue their slow start.

Earlier in the week, the men’s high jump final was shared between Italy and Qatar, as the athletes were asked if they wanted another jump to separate them.

Batch did not want the gold medal to be shared, but was disappointed the International Federation Hockey had done away with extra time.

“No, I’ve always believed you need to win,” Batch said.

“They used to play extra time and I think for an Olympic final that should still be in place. It seems I’m a lone soldier there. They want to have the shootouts, it adds a different element to the game, it gets it over and done with.

“We’re disappointed, but proud of what we did as a team.”

For a hockey program that had gone through the ringer in recent years, the defeat was devastating.

The entire 2004 gold medal-winning Kookaburras were watching the match via zoom.

For them, and the rest of Australia gripped in lockdown across the nation because of Covid, it was a painful evening.

Nothing will come close to the devastation being felt by the Kookaburras though, who had come together under Batch since he took over in 2017.

“We should still be proud of what we’ve achieved here,” Charter said.

“We came here not knowing where we were on the world stage after the Covid stoppage, so to come here and put ourselves up against teams that have been playing competition for 18 months is remarkable and I think we did ourselves proud.”


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