Johannesburg: A last minute goal saw India lose 3-4 to Belgium in an exhilarating final of the Champions Challenge hockey tournament here on Sunday.
India were comfortably sitting on a 3-1 cushion in the second half but a resilient Belgium bounced back in the match.
Tom Boon scored the winner and in the process became the joint top scorer of the tournament along with Justin Reid Ross of South Africa with eight goals.
For India, V.R.Raghunath (23rd minute), Sandeep Singh (41st) and Shivender Singh (54) scored. Belgium, who defeated Argentina in a tense shoot-out for a place in the final, responded through Jerome Dekeyser's brace (44th, 57th) and Gauthier Boccard's strike (55th) before Boon (70th) separated the two teams.
Sandeep finished with seven goals, all through penalty corners, and won the Player of the Tournament award.
But it was hardly a consolation for India as their propensity to concede last minute goals came back to haunt them.
Belgium, who have already made it to the London Olympics, also qualified for next December's Champions Trophy in Australia.
"It is a cherry on the cake," said ecstatic Belgian player Xavier Reckinger.
India wasted an opportunity to play in the elite Champions Trophy after 2005.
The eight-time Olympic champions looked in fine touch at the start. India had their chances as S.V.Sunil, with his explosive speed and fine dribbling skills, troubled the Belgian defenders.
Raghunath converted a penalty corner to give them the lead. Belgium stepped up the attack, but failed to level the scores. On one occasion Boon shot wide and on another he wasted a ball right in front of the goal. Indian custodian Bharat Chetri also made some good saves.
But Belgium galvanised themselves in the thrilling second half that saw three goals in three minutes.
Though it was India who went 2-0 up with Sandeep drag flicking the ball home, after wasting the first penalty corner.
Belgium were however not heartbroken and found their first goal as Dekeyser, latching onto a through ball, got past a defender and scored.
It was then that the most exciting moment of the match happened. Shivender scored a brilliant goal. He dribbled down the line and got past the goalkeeper with his skillful stickwork just in time to send the ball in.
He got another chance immediately, but couldn't deflect the ball.
Belgium, after wasting two penalty corners in the second half, scored two in the next two minutes through Gauthier and Dekeyser, taking India by surprise.
With 13 minutes to go, the match moved into a tense phase. Both teams concentrated on effective build-up while making sure the defence stayed entact.
Belgium though looked in better control. They got a penalty corner when Thomas Briels came close to scoring but his push hit the Indian defender. It was wasted with Belgium drag flick expert Boon sitting on the bench.
Shivender then latched onto a long ball, but Yuvraj Walmiki was not in control to score.
Belgium then made a fine move and Boon made it count.
"I am really happy. We fought back in the match. It was not easy. We have beaten one of the top teams of the world in the final," said Belgium's Australian coach Colin Batch.