Belgium's Felix Denayer flicks the ball past Australia's Timothy Deavin during their Group A match on Thursday. Australia won 3-1. - EPA
THE HAGUE: Belgium’s World Cup progress hit a bump when they lost 3-1 to defending champions Australia.
But that has only strengthened their resolve to double their efforts as they seek to reach the semi-final for the first time.
After two impressive victories – beating India 3-2 and Malaysia 6-2 – the Belgians were brought down to earth by defending champions Australia on Thursday.
Australia now top Group A with the maximum nine points, with two matches to go.
Australia showed why they are one of the favourites for the title with three early strikes before seeing out the match with relative ease.
Chris Ciriello (seventh minute), Jacob Whetton (ninth) and Eddie Ockenden (36th) scored for the champions while Sebastian Dockler replied for the Belgians in the 46th minute.
Belgium coach Marc Lammers admitted that they lost to the better team and he hoped that his men would learn from the defeat.
“We need to be more aggressive, especially when playing against teams like Australia,” he said.
“To beat Australia, you have to survive the first 10 minutes. They are strong starters and have this ability to get ahead before you can get ready. But there are positives we can take from this match.
“For us, the next two matches are like Cup finals. We have to win them to make the last four. We meet Spain next, followed by England.
“These are matches we have to win.”
Australia, on the other hand, have England and India on their radar next and all they need is one win to confirm their berth in the last four.
“We prefer to take it one step at a time and keep on improving,” said Australia coach Ric Charlesworth.
“I wasn’t too happy with our second-half performance (against Belgium).”
In the other late match on Thursday, India gained their first point of the tournament with a 1-1 draw against Spain.
India scored in the 28th minute through a Rupinderpal Singh penalty corner goal while Spain equalised through a Roc Oliva field goal in the 32nd minute.
Spain now have two points, following their opening day draw against England.