One of the most improved sides in world hockey, Belgium men would start as title favourites when the third FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament commences at the Saint Germain Hockey Club in Paris later today.
The Belgium team, which grew in stature under their ex-coach, Australian Colin Batch, with impressive performances in major tournaments, took the hockey world by surprise when they took the fifth spot in the 2012 London Olympics, beating Spain 5-2 in the play-off tie.
Under coach Colin Batch, the Red Panthers improved by leaps and bounds and often turned out to be the surprise package in big-ticket tournaments.
Belgium has climbed from world hockey ranking of 13 to the current ranking of 9 – a fair indication of the upswing in the team’s fortunes in recent years.
The Belgium men’s team had a change of guard after the London Olympics. Colin Batch stepped down and top Dutch coach Marc Lammers took charge of the national men’s team.
Belgium is expected to face competition in the seven-day event from 14th ranked Canada, 17th ranked and hosts France, 19th ranked Poland, 23rd ranked Scotland and 50th ranked Portugal.
Earlier, in the first FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in New Delhi, hosts and 9th ranked India and 15th ranked Ireland made it to the Hockey World League (HWL) semifinals slated to be held in Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Johor Bahru (Malaysia) later this year.
10th ranked Argentina and 12th ranked South Africa qualified from the second FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
The fourth and final FIH Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 tournament would be held at Elektrostal (Russia) from May 27 to June 2.
Japan, Asia’s lone representative in the tournament, will start as favourites. The 16th ranked side would fight it out for the two available berths, with hosts and 20th ranked Russia, 21st ranked Czeck Republic, 22nd ranked Austria, 24th ranked Egypt and 27th ranked Ukraine.
Earlier, all the eight women teams have been identified through the four Round 2 tournaments. 11th ranked South Africa and 13th ranked Belgium qualified from the first Round 2 tournament held in Cape Town (South Africa).
12th ranked India and 9th ranked Japan qualified from the second Round 2 tournament held in New Delhi (India).
15th ranked Spain and 17th ranked Italy made the cut from the third Round 2 tournament held in Valencia (Spain), while Chile and the USA made it from the fourth and final Round 2 tournament held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).