Hockey World Cup 2018: Resurgent Belgium aiming for first major title after faltering in Rio Olympics final
Belgium's record at World Cups is poor with a fifth-place finish in the 2014 edition being their best performance till date. The Red Lions will be gunning to claim their first major title.
World No 3 Belgium enter the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Odisha as favourites behind Australia and Argentina. However, this hasn't always been the case for the Red Lions. Though they have a rich history in the sport, dating back to the 1908 Summer Olympics, they have never tasted success either in Europe or in the world. Before the 2016 Rio Olympics, Belgium's best showing at any tournament has been their third-place finish at the 1920 Olympics.
Belgium's record at World Cups is poor, with a fifth-place finish in the 2014 edition at the Netherlands being their best performance till date. Curiously, by participating in the 2018 edition, this will be the first time that the Red Lions will participate in back-to-back World Cups.
Since the London Olympics in 2012, Belgium have gradually improved their performances. They won silver at the 2013 and 2017 European Championship while also reaching the final of the 2014-15 Hockey World League where they lost to Australia. However, their best-ever performance came at the Rio Olympics where they won silver.
Captain Thomas Briels and midfielder John-John Dohmen are the most capped players in the Belgian squad with 305 and 362 appearances and the Red Lions will be banking on their experience in Bhubaneswar. What might work against Belgium is the lack of younger players in the squad. A majority of their players are over 25 with none of the younger players having more than 50 caps under their belt.
The Red Lions have been drawn with hosts India, Canada and South Africa. With form on their side and squad with depth and quality, Belgium are expected to qualify from their pool. However, it is yet to be seen whether they can top the pool and book a spot in the quarter-finals. Their toughest clash will be against hosts India, who are two rungs below them in the world rankings. However, they will be up against an Indian side eager to win the World Cup on home soil. The expected partisan crowd at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar will also pose a tough challenge for the Red Lions.
Squad: Vincent Vanasch, Loic Van Doren, Arthur De Sloover, Arthur Van Doren, Loïck Luypaert, Alexander Hendrickx, Gauthier Boccard, Emmanuel Stockbroekx, Simon Gougnard, John-John Dohmen, Victor Wegnez, Felix Denayer, Sébastien Dockier, Cédric Charlier, Tom Boon, Thomas Briels, Florent van Aubel, Nicolas De Kerpel
Coach: Shane McLeod
For the rest of the profiles of teams in the Hockey World Cup 2018, click here.
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The Indian team will take on Germany in their second match on Sunday.
The FIH Congress is scheduled to be held here in May, but there is a possibility the meeting could be held virtually due to travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lalremsiami found the back of the net in the 51st minute, but Germany protected their lead well in the closing stages to pick up their fourth successive win of the tour.