Argentina survived a nail-biting finale to claim their first-ever Olympic gold medal in men's hockey with a 4-2 win over Belgium in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.
A well-worked penalty corner was converted by Gonzalo Peillat in the 21st minute for what turned out to be the Argentine winner, building on earlier goals from Pedro Ibarra and Ignacio Oritz in the first period.
"I can't believe it," captain Ibarra said. "We finished and we are happy but I think we don't realise what we are now."
Belgium had taken an early lead through Tanguy Cosyns before Ibarra's equalizer turned the game. A wonderful solo goal from Gauthier Boccard at the end of the third-quarter then set up the frantic finish.
Argentina survived two late penalty corners and though Belgium removed their goalkeeper for an extra field player late on, they could not breach the packed defence.
Agustin Mazzilli then sealed gold with an empty netter with 17 seconds remaining, to the delight of the boisterous Argentina fans in the stadium, which sparked wild celebrations on the full time whistle.
"It's the goal everyone dreams to score like this, to make it 4-2 and finish the game like this," Mazzilli said.
The gold is Argentina's first hockey medal on the men's side though their women ended a run of four consecutive podium finishes in Rio.
"I think maybe it's going to help a lot in men's hockey in Argentina. The girls, they did everything really, really good the whole time," said Mazzilli.
"So we need now to increase our level in hockey in men's so I hope everyone is watching this and we can play with more payers in Argentina."
Belgium settled for silver, only their second-ever Olympic hockey medal after bronze in 1912.
"I think later on we'll reflect a bit more and be very proud of what we've done but you always want towin that last game and we just did too many things wrong today," Belgium coach Shane McLeod said.
"There's a hundred positives to two or three negatives and it will be when we reflect that we will really celebrate a bit."
Earlier Germany defeated the Netherlands 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out following a 1-1 draw to win bronze.
Germany, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions, secured a medal for the fourth successive time following bronze in 2004.
In a match bringing together the 2012 finalists, Jorrit Croon put the Dutch in front in the 35th minute before Martin Haener levelled for the Germans seven minutes later.
"I'm relieved and happy and sad and I think I have every emotion together that exist," said Germany's Moritz Fuerste, who is retiring after three trips to the Games.
"First of all because I just won an Olympic bronze medal. Second of all, it was the last game of my career."
Monday, August 8, 2016 - 05:31