2023 FIH Men’s Ice Hockey World Championship
There was a definite buzz when reigning champions Belgium arrived in Odisha for the FIH Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 on Friday. Belgium are drawn in Group B alongside Germany, Japan and Korea and will begin their campaign against Korea in Bhubaneswar on January 14.
Led by captain Felix Denayer, the Red Lions will be hoping to repeat their performance at the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup and retain the trophy. If they are successful, they will become the fourth nation to win consecutive men’s hockey FIFA World Cups after Pakistan (1978, 1982), Germany (2002, 2006) and Australia (2010, 2014).
Speaking about his expectations for the tournament, Denayer said: “We have prepared really well. We were in training camp in Spain where we won all our matches. Therefore, our side has great confidence that we will perform well in the tournament.”
“But we know it’s going to be a tough competition, so we’re really excited to get started,” he added. Denayer listed the teams he believes will be a tough challenge for his team and explained why retaining the trophy will not be an easy task for his team despite the long preparation for the tournament.
“I think there are a lot of favorites. Obviously, Australia and then at home the Netherlands, Germany and India are still strong opponents I think. Then there are educated teams like England and Argentina, so I don’t think it will be an easy competition for anyone,” he said.
The memories of the thrilling final between the Netherlands and Belgium in the 2018 World Cup are still fresh in the minds of the Belgian players. The match, which was decided by a shootout, witnessed intense drama after Arthur de Sluwer’s game-winning strike in the shootout was disallowed after a review and the Belgian side had to end their celebrations midway through. – road
But Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vansach saved Dutchman Jonas de Geus’s last-ditch effort and celebrations resumed in the Belgium camp as they lifted their first World Cup trophy.
Asked whether the tournament will see such intense dramatic moments this time around, Denayer said, “Yes, I think the tournament will be tough, but we also have experience, so we feel confident and we are very hungry. to keep the trophy. We are an ambitious group. I think we need tests like this to show the best results,” he said.
Belgium head coach Michel van den Heuvel said that he was happy to see the enthusiasm of Odisha fans for the upcoming tournament. At the same time, he explained why everyone loves performing in front of Indian audiences. “We love to visit Bhubaneswar again and again. This is the Indian team we play for because it is the best hockey team in the world. We came to defend the title of world champion and we prepared very well for it. We are looking forward to the start of the tournament,” he said.
“The people here are always great. Everyone is so excited to be here and play for this crowd. Therefore, despite the strong support, it is not difficult to win,” the coach added. Interestingly, the experienced coach Shane McLeod, who led the Belgian team to the World Cup and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, returned after a short vacation as an assistant coach with the contingent. In addition, the team has several experienced campaigners, including veteran John-John Dohmen, who has won more than 400 international tournaments.
Coach Hevel explained how having such people on the team would be beneficial to his team in the competition. “They are all very experienced and know the game. They have played here before and won the trophy. So even if we are in a difficult situation this time, their presence will help the team. It’s great to have him in our team,” he signed.
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