Hockey World Cup 2018: Belgium faces Canada challenge in opener

Olympic silver medallist and world No.3 Belgium is eager to showcase its exciting brand of hockey, combining its high scoring game and solid defence, when it meets Canada in the Hockey World Cup opener at the Kalinga Stadium on Wednesday.

Belgium will heavily rely on seasoned campaigner Thomas Briels.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Olympic silver medallist and world No.3 Belgium is eager to showcase its exciting brand of hockey, combining its high scoring game and solid defence, when it meets Canada in the Hockey World Cup opener at the Kalinga Stadium here on Wednesday.

Lodged in Pool C, which offers variety, the Red Lions are backed by a top-class domestic system and the resources to achieve their target of securing their best-ever finish. The highest ranked team in the pool and a contender for the champion’s tag, Belgium’s previous best performance was fifth place in 2014.

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Belgium, consisting of some experienced players and five members from the 2016 Junior World Cup silver medal winning squad in India, knows its game and can handle pressure. “When you play a World Cup, it is like a celebration of all the work that you put in beforehand. The pressure is actually in making sure everything is in place before the World Cup,” said Belgium coach Shane McLeod.

The meeting with 11th-ranked Canada should be an ideal start for Belgium, which will be keen to get into a good momentum with a convincing victory.  Its flair for trapping the ball in the midfield and launching counter-attacks will boost the European outfit.

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Canada, which last played in a World Cup eight years ago in Delhi, is full of determination to better its best showing, eighth in 1998.

The North American side may be a little unpredictable but has the capability to upset top sides. Canada will push hard with its ‘nothing-to-lose’ attitude against Belgium. Points earned against a superior rival may help the lowly-ranked team manage a decent place in the pool, comprising India and South Africa, and stay alive for the cross-over contests.