If there is one team that has scripted its own fairytale in world hockey in the last decade, it is Belgium. The gradual rise of the Red Lions up the table to be currently ranked third in the world is as much a testament to their single-minded focus to development as to the advantages of continuity and a strong grassroots development programme.
The growth in stature, specially given the tough competition in Europe — arguably the strongest continent in world hockey — has been accompanied by a collection of trophies. Belgium made its maiden Olympic final in 2016, finishing second behind surprise winner Argentina, and followed it up with a silver at the European Championships in 2017. The process that started with a silver at EuroHockey 2013, upsetting bigger teams like England and Spain, has continued with much of the core of the team remaining the same. John-John Dohmen continues to lead the pack even as the likes of Player of the Year 2017 Arthur Van Doren and Alexander Hendrickx have added experience to their already lethal skills.
Belgium’s appearances and performances at previous World Cup editions are a further sign of the team’s recent development. It has competed in five World Cups, with gaps between each appearance but gradual growth in its results. Belgium finished 14th in 2002, missed 2006 and 2010 and then finished in fifth place in 2014 at the Hague. A 6-1 win against Germany in the recent HWL Round 3 final would have raised the team’s confidence further as well as the hope of doing better than the fifth place four years ago. Belgium will go to Odisha as a very serious medal contender.
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, Sebastien Dockier, Cedric Charlier, Tom Boon, Thomas Briels, Florent van Aubel and Nicolas De Kerpel.