If there’s one team that has written its own fairy tale in world hockey over the last decade, it’s Belgium. The Red Lions’ gradual rise up the table, currently ranked third in the world, is as much a testament to their single-minded focus on development as it is to the benefits of continuity and a strong grassroots development program.
The growth in stature, especially given the tough competition from Europe, arguably the strongest continent in world hockey, has been accompanied by a collection of trophies. Belgium made their first Olympic final in 2016, finishing second behind surprise winners Argentina, and followed it up with a silver medal at the 2017 European Championships. The run, which began with silver at EuroHockey 2013, upset bigger teams like England and Spain. continued with the main core of the team remaining the same. Jon-Jon Dohmen continues to lead the team, even as 2017 MVP Arthur Van Doren and Alexander Hendrikx add experience to their already lethal skills.
Belgium’s performances and performances in previous World Cups are another sign of the team’s recent developments. It has participated in five World Cups, with gaps between each, but a gradual increase in results. Belgium finished 14th in 2002, missed out in 2006 and 2010, and finished fifth in 2014 in The Hague. A recent 6-1 win against Germany in the HWL Round 3 final would have boosted the team’s confidence as well as hopes of doing better than their fifth-place finish four years ago. Belgium will go to Odisha as a very serious medal contender.
Squad: Vincent Vanache, Loic Van Doren, Arthur De Sluwer, Arthur Van Doren, Loic Leipert, Alexander Hendrikx, Gautier Bocard, Emmanuel Stockbrox, Simon Gugnard, John-John Domin, Victor Vegnes, Felix Denayer, Sebastien, Sebastien. Boone, Thomas Briels, Florent van Aubel, and Nicolas De Kerpel.