Shane McLeod's formidable Red Lions play the opening match of the Odisha World Cup against a Canadian side who made it to Bhubaneswar thanks to a victory against India at the Hockey World League Semifinals at London last year.
At the Rio Olympics, Belgium earned silver by finishing second behind Argentina while the Canadians ended up second from the bottom by virtue of a single point earned via a 2-2 draw against the Indians, while hosts Brazil had no points whatsoever.
It was Anthony Farry who helped the Canadian side find their lost footing and qualify for Rio, but while Farry has moved on and now coaches the Japanese women's team, Paul Bundy has continued the good work for the North Americans.
The Belgians themselves started the year well defeating India in finals of both legs of the Four-Nations Invitational in New Zealand but were not at their best in the six-nation Champions Trophy at Breda where they finished fifth ahead of Pakistan.
Despite the reversal at Breda, the Red Lions have sufficient quality in their ranks to aim for a realistic podium finish at Bhubaneswar. Vincent Vanasch in goal continues to be acrobatic as ever even as Arthur Van Doren, Gauthier Boccard, and Loick Luypaert man the ever-resolute Belgian defence.
John-John Dohmen and Felix Denayer control the midfield just as well as before, while Cedric Charlier, Tom Boon, and captain Thomas Briels can always cause havoc in the attacking circle.
The third-ranked Belgian side will begin as the overwhelming favourites, knowing well that they can ill-afford any opening-match hiccups against the likes of Keegan Perreira and Iain Smythe.
The experience of captain Scott Tupper and Gordon Johnston in defence will be invaluable for the eleventh-ranked Canadians while goalkeeper David Carter will hope to relive the magical form of 2015.
Incidentally, it was in 2015 that the two sides clashed on Indian soil at the Hockey World League Finals at Raipur. Florent van Aubel scored a brace, while Sebastien Dockier, Thomas Briels, Arthur van Doren and Tom Boon all added their names to the scoresheet for the Belgians.
Back then Shane McLeod's Belgian's had prevailed with a 7-2 margin, but a World Cup opener can prove to be a trifle more tricky and an absorbing contest is on the cards.
Here is how you can follow the action:
Event: Men's Hockey World Cup 2018
Venue: Bhubaneswar, India
Date: 28 November 2018
Time: 5:00 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
India: Star Sports, Star Sports HD
UK: BT Sport
Australia: Fox Sports
New Zealand: Sky Sports (NZ)
South Africa: SuperSport
Live Streaming: Hotstar, FIH Official Youtube Channel
Live Updates: Sportskeeda
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