Chandanda Thimmaiah (59') celebrated his 24th birthday by scoring the opening goal in the 5/6 play off match against Belgium in the Hero Hockey World League Final. However, two goals for Belgium in the last three minutes meant that Belgium finished in 5th place and India 6th.
The first 35 minutes were played at a great pace with two styles of play very much in evidence – the structured build-up of the Red Lions as opposed to the opportunistic quick breaks of India. What was in evidence on both sides was some very tight defending and an unwillingness to let the opposition stay on possession for long.
Both teams created chances, but despite brave diving in the circle from both teams, notably Yousuf Affan for India and Amaury Keusters for Belgium, no-one was able to get the killer touch on the ball and turn opportunities to goals.
The second half started at the same dazzling tempo, with the India team pressing high up the pitch to pressure the Belgium defence, and the Belgium forwards finding space to shoot, but failing to beat Hero Man of the Match Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran in the India goal.
Parattu Raveendran was called into action twice more as Belgium began to turn the screws in the second half. Two penalty corners for Belgium were well-defended but for a few minutes India were unable to break out of their half of the pitch.
When they did break out, it was to pile pressure on the Belgium circle and the India team's persistence paid off when Thimmaiah (59') celebrated his 24th birthday with a goal that was snatched from a goal-mouth scramble.
It took Belgium eight minutes to find the equaliser through Florent van Aubel (67') and then Tom Boon (68') broke Indian hearts when he slotted home the winning goal from a penalty corner.