Golden Belgium taste World Cup glory...twice

'This team deserves to be called the golden generation of Belgian hockey' (2:29)

Debayan Sen and Jonathan Selvaraj review the final of the 2018 Hockey World Cup. (2:29)

Belgium are champions of the world. And they had to do it twice -- in fact, even three times over.

After playing a perfect defensive game for 60 minutes against fancied Netherlands, they fell behind early in the shootout. Belgium's goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch then grabbed the situation by the scruff of the neck, forcing errors from experienced players like Mirco Pruijser, Seve van Ass and Thijs van Dam to drag his team back into the shootout.

Arthur de Sloover then thought he had the World Cup won, having spun around Saturday's shootout hero Pirmin Blaak, before getting a shot home. Netherlands had no option but to go for the referral, which found de Sloover to have backed into the goalkeeper, calling immediately for an obstruction.

The decision, which went in the favour of the Dutch, perhaps inconvenienced the ground staff more than the plucky Belgians.

The carpet base for the presentation podium had already been wheeled out to the centre of the pitch, and portions of the presentation podium were also on their way, carried by the volunteers, when the technical delegates had to remind them to get out of the ground as the verdict was awaited.

As the series of shots was reversed, Florent van Aubel, one of only two Belgians to have converted, stepped up, and completed a similar routine to de Sloover, though this time he was careful enough to keep his distance from Blaak. Netherlands went for the review nonetheless, and the video umpire judged this time in Belgium's favour.

Jeroen Hertzberger stepped up for Netherlands, but was forced wide by Vanasch, sparking off scenes of celebrations from the Belgians, who had emerged victorious in their first ever World Cup final.

Even at the end of 60 minutes, before the shootout, Belgium appeared the more confident team. Arthur van Doren, the reigning FIH player of the year, bumped fists with fellow defenders Loick Luypaert and de Sloover.

It was a tight match, with six shots for the free-flowing Dutch proof of how little space they were given to work with. Belgium didn't close themselves out completely, though, with three shots of their own. However, for large parts of the match, their tactics were based around driving the Dutch forwards and midfielders wider away, and then slapping the ball down the centre to look for a quick run by their own strikers.

Belgium deserve credit for getting their A-game to the table when it mattered the most. In light of their 5-0 win against Pakistan in the crossover, and a 6-0 thumping of England in the last four, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they conceded just one goal to Germany in four matches of the knockout stages.

They always say that attacking lines win you matches, but defences win you leagues and tournaments. On a night short on goals but not on tactical nous, Shane McLeod's Belgium proved the adage to be right, and with it completed the crowning of his team's golden generation of hockey players.

The captain Thomas Briels revealed what McLeod had told his players both before the game as well as the shootout: "It's written in the stars".