The result leaves Ireland facing world number one side Australia on Wednesday in the tournament’s quarter-final — with victory securing qualification for the next year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
But Craig Fulton’s side were left furious after five video referrals went against them, at least three of which were highly contentious.
Loick Luypaert put Belgium in front from one such review, earning a penalty corner which the defender fired home. Shane O’Donoghue equalised soon after with a low push despite Vincent Vanasch’s best efforts
From there, Ireland defended heroically with David Harte superb between the posts. And they looked well set to have a shot at winning the tie with two minutes to go when Peter Caruth was cleaned out by Arthur van Doren.
A video review from Gary Simmons suggested Caruth had fouled the defender.
Seconds later, John-John Dohmen snatched the winner, scoring into an open goal when Fulton swapped out his goalkeeper for an extra outfield player as they sought to push for a last-ditch winner.
Peter Caruth summed the feeling up, saying: “We are gutted; we played very well but the big decisions just didn’t go our way. I’m very proud of our team and we nearly nicked a result.”
The problems started early for Ireland. Conor Harte went off with a suspected broken collar bone inside five minutes after an awkward collision with Amaury Keusters.
Belgium were making most of the play, enjoying the guts of possession, but got precious little change from the Irish defence. The video decisions started in the first quarter when Belgium attacked down the right wing.
The ball popped up off Thomas Briels’ stick into Eugene Magee’s body. One Belgian called for a video review but promptly attempted to retract his claims, on viewing the replay on the big screen, his side set up for an Irish free, their body language suggesting there was no chance of success. Penalty corner was the decision that came back with Belgium retaining their right to refer. From their next video review, Luypaert opened the scoring.
O’Donoghue’s leveller eased the feeling of grievance for a while, making it 1-1 at half-time. But things went from bad to worse when Paul Gleghorne was given a 10-minute suspension for an off-the-ball incident — there looked to be little in the incident with the on-field umpire Peter Wright dismissing it as a simple collision but Simmons saw otherwise.
The video umpire also felt Caruth was in the wrong when he beat van Doren for pace down the right wing at the death to deny Ireland a corner.
Belgium countered, scored and sent Ireland into the toughest possible quarter-final bout.
D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, A Sothern, P Caruth, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, P Gleghorne, C Harte
J Bell, S Dowds, E Magee, K Shimmins, D Carlisle, K Good, D Fitzgerald
V Vanasch, A van Droen, J-J Dohmen, F van Aubel, S Dockier, E Stockbroekx, F Denayer, L Luypaert, T Boon, J Truyens, E van Strydonck
D Thiery, A Keusters, G Boccard, T Briels, S Gougnard, T Cosyns, J Gucasoff
J Wright, G Greenfield