Hockey World Cup 2018: Belgium begin campaign with gritty, hard-fought victory over minnows Canada

Bhubaneswar: Olympic silver medallist Belgium's quest for a maiden men's World Cup title started with a fighting 2-1 win over minnows Canada in the opening match of hockey's showpiece event on Wednesday.

 Hockey World Cup 2018: Belgium begin campaign with gritty, hard-fought victory over minnows Canada

The Canadian hockey team celebrate their equaliser. Twitter@sports_odisha

Ranked third in the world, Belgium started as overwhelming favourites against world no. 11 Canada in the Pool C opener but they looked far from impressive. Even though Belgium controlled the proceedings in the first two quarters by showcasing fast-paced attacking hockey, they lacked the sting after the change of ends.

The Red Lions sounded the board as early as in the third minute through a fine field strike by Felix Denayer.

In the 12th minute, captain Thomas Briels found the back of the net again for Belgium but the goal was disallowed after Canada went for the referral, claiming the ball hit his hand before rolling on to the goal.

But Briels was not to be denied in the 22nd minute as he scored with a brilliant strike after he was set up by Arthur van Doren. Belgium completely dominated the first two quarters as Canada hardly managed to get a shot at the opposition goal.

But the script changed to some extent after halftime as Canada started to find their grip on the match. They fought brilliantly to pull a goal back through Mark Pearson's penalty corner conversion in the 48th minute.

After a bright start, it was a lacklustre performance from the Belgians in the last two quarters as they allowed Canada to come back into the match. It was far from an ideal start for Belgium as they wasted as many as four penalty corners in the match, a fact which their captain Thomas Briels accepted.

"We played a very good first half. We started positively and dominated but Canada came back strongly after halftime to give us some tough time," Briels said.

Belgium will next face hosts India on 2 December while Canada will be up against South Africa.

Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 21:19:00 IST