FIH Pro League: Confident India braces up for Belgium challenge

After wins over the Netherlands, India will hope to defeat the World No. 1 side in the upcoming matches at the Kalinga Stadium.

The Indian team will be buoyed by its good start in the competition.   -  PTI

The Indian team, confident after a stupendous debut at the FIH Pro League, will nevertheless have its task cut out when it hosts world champion Belgium in the second round of the tournament that starts here on Saturday.

After skipping the first edition of the tournament in 2019, India made a dream debut at the League, collecting five points from the opening tie against the Netherlands. World No. 5 India thrashed Netherlands 5-2 in the opening match of the two-leg tie before ensuring a 3-1 win in the shoot-out in the second match here last month.

Since then, the Indians haven’t featured in the league, slipping in the points table. Belgium, on the other hand, is currently positioned at the top of the points table with 11 points from four games, while Netherlands is placed second with seven points from as many matches.

Brimming with confidence

But irrespective of the confident start, the Indians are expected to face a tough outing against Belgium at the Kalinga Stadium, a venue where the Red Lions won their maiden FIH World Cup in 2018. Belgium is brimming with confidence after wins over Australia and New Zealand. But captain Thomas Briels admitted his team expects a tough fight from India in the upcoming matches.

Belgium will take confidence from the fact that Kalinga Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for it. “It feels really good to be back in the city where we became the world champions. We have some amazing memories of playing here, and it is always a great spectacle when we step foot onto the turf at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium,” Briels said.

A head-to-head record favouring Belgium

India and Belgium have played 10 times here; Belgium won on eight occasions while two games ended in a draw.

After Belgium, India will host Australia here on February 21 and 22 before embarking on away matches against Germany (on April 25 and 26), Great Britain (May 2 and 3), Argentina (June 5 and 6) and Spain (June 13 and 14).

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