Johannesburg: A brilliant Cedric Charlier goal set up Belgium for a surprise 2-1 win over Australia in Johannesburg on Friday and a Men's Hockey World League final showdown against Germany.
The gritty Germans scored five minutes from time in the other semi-final to draw 1-1 with Spain and won the shootout 4-3 to book a place in the Sunday tournament decider.
Preceding that match will be the women's final between Germany and the United States, offering the European economic powerhouse the chance of a hockey double.
League title-holders Australia are ranked second in the world, three places above Belgium, and started the semi-final at the University of the Witwatersrand as slight favourites.
But goals by Charlier, after a sweeping two-man move covering virtually the length of the artificial turf field, and Amaury Keusters rattled the Kookaburras.
Jeremy Hayward halved the deficit at the end of the third quarter, but ill-discipline cost his team dearly in the final 15 minutes with Kiran Arunasalam and Tim Craig yellow-carded.
In field hockey, players receiving a yellow card spend five minutes in the "sin bin", or "naughty chair" as South African spectators call it.
Australia scored in the final minute, but the "goal" was referred to the TV umpire and replays showed a Kookaburra foot touching the ball as it sped to the net.
There was still time for a final attempt to snatch an equaliser, but Arunasalam could not control a long, lofted Hayward pass and the ball ran out of play.
"That was a really high-level and exciting hockey match," said New Zealand-born Belgium coach Shane McLeod.
"It was crucial for us to match the Australians physically, and we did. That was a real battle. We came here to play in the final and have achieved that goal.
"Facing Germany requires a different approach. Whereas Australia are a 'run-and-gun' team, the Germans are tactically smart."
Ricardo Sanchez gave Spain — seven places beneath third-ranked Germany — a late first-quarter lead they successfully defended for 40 minutes.
Ferdinand Weinke levelled for the Germans, who had to play without star attacker Timm Herzbruch for most of the match after he fell awkwardly.
Christopher Ruhr was the villain-turned-hero in the shootout — the second in two days as the United States took a similar route at the expense of England to the women's final.
He failed to score off the first post-match dribble, converted a penalty stroke to give his team the lead and scored the decisive "sudden-death" goal.
Germany skipper Mats Grambusch said resilience and shootout practice were key factors in reaching the decider against their European neighbours.
"We practice a lot for shootouts and were involved in several recently which helped. You also need a little luck in these post-match situations and we had it.
"Spain are a great team and we had to be mentally strong to stay in contention for much of the match. After equalising, the momentum swung in our favour."
Published Date: Jul 22, 2017 12:21 pm | Updated Date: Jul 22, 2017 12:22 pm