Hockey World Cup 2018: Wasteful Belgium edge out Canada

The Red Lions thought they had pocketed their second goal quite soon in the second quarter. However, it was disallowed, but it was perhaps the best piece of teamwork by the Belgian forwards in the match.

other sports Updated: Nov 28, 2018 19:41 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Bhubaneswar
Hockey World Cup 2018,Belgium,Canada
Belgium players Felix Denayer with teammates celebrates after hitting a goal against Canada during Men's Hockey World Cup 2018, at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar(PTI)

Much like their football team, the Belgian hockey outfit is also experiencing a golden era with some of the best players in the world.

Reigning ‘FIH Player of the Year’ Arthur van Doren, captain Thomas Briels and experienced striker Tom Boon, among others, play as a collective unit. And that unity was very much visible at the Kalinga Stadium as they outplayed Canada 2-1 in the opening game of the World Cup on Sunday.

The 2016 Rio Olympics silver medallists hit the attack button the moment the field umpire blew the whistle. Making inroads from the start, their attack materialised into the first goal of the 19-day tournament when Felix Denayer put in the ball, which was developed beautifully by the Belgian forward line.

Van Doren, who was also voted as the ‘Emerging Player of the Year’ by FIH last year, pushed in ball into the semi-circle, which was deflected perfectly into the goal Denayer. World No 3 Belgium broke away on the counterattack regularly and dominated possession --- as much as 75 percent in the first quarter.

The Red Lions thought they had pocketed their second goal quite soon in the second quarter. However, it was disallowed, but it was perhaps the best piece of teamwork by the Belgian forwards in the match.

In old-fashioned team play, Boon got hold of the ball outside the semi-circle, dodged past two Canadian defenders and passed it to Florent van Aubel who further dodged another defender and gave the ball to skipper Briels who did not waste any time to put the ball into the net, only to be denied seconds later by the umpire.

The 2017 European Championships silver medallists did not have to wait long for their second goal as some lovely stickwork by the Belgian forwards deceived the Canadian defence with Briels scoring with ease in the 22nd minute to put Belgium 2-0 ahead.

Had it not been for Canadian goalkeeper Antoni Kindler, who was instrumental in saving several goal-scoring opportunities by the European outfit, the scoreline would have looked quite different. Kindler put his body on the line and effectively saved what could have been three sure-shot goals for Belgium.

The Red Lions also slowed down their pace in the latter half of which worked in favour of the Canadians. The Scott Tupper-led team, who were dominated for the first three quarters, sensed the opportunity and tried making counterattacks in the fourth quarter.

And that helped as Canada, who did not qualify for the last World Cup, earned two back-to-back penalty corners in the 47th minute. Though they wasted the first, Mark Pearson scraped the ball through into the goalpost to put the Canadians on the board.

However, Canada left too many gaps throughout the match for the Belgians to exploit and it was status quo till the end of the match, resulting in a victory for Belgium.

The Belgians also showed that they have many chinks in the armour despite being one of the favourites to lift the trophy. The Briels-led outfit wasted all seven short-corner opportunities, something that Harendra Singh’s boys will watch out keenly when the teams clash on December 2.

First Published: Nov 28, 2018 19:38 IST