Red Lions will give top teams a run for their money

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Current World Ranking # 11 (1150 points)

Clubbed with the Netherlands, Germany, India, Korea and New Zealand in Pool B at the London Games.

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Best result: Won bronze at 1920 Antwerp Games.

Last Olympic: Finished ninth

Belgium has played at all Olympics between 1920 and 1976 excepting the 1932 Los Angeles Games. They came back at the Games only in 2008 after the 1976 Montreal Games. They beat the then world champions Germany to grab the final qualifying berth for the Beijing Games. The Belgian Red Lions have participated in just four World Cups so far and their best result was to finish eighth in 1973.

The Road to London:
Belgium made it to the Olympics this year once they reached the semifinals of the EuroHockey Nations Championship last year. The fact that the host nation, Great Britain, was also one of the last four teams in the tournament meant all four teams would make it to the mega event. Belgium finished four in the tournament behind Germany, the Netherlands and England. One of their top performances in that tournament was against Spain, whom they beat 3-2 after trailing 0-2 at one point.

The Red Lions won the Champions Challenge in South Africa after that and put up a consistent display in the recent months, in the run-up to the Olympics. They beat Argentina thrice in April and also beat Spain and drew the powerful Germans at a recent tournament played in DÜsseldorf.

Players to watch out for:
Skipper Maxime Luycx, a veteran of 300 international caps, is the main engine of the team. Jerome Dekeyser and Tom Boon, whose sister Jill is appearing for Belgium's women's team, must continue with their prolific scoring ability if the team has to excel in London. Both these players had injuries recently and will be eager to recover on time.

1. Belgium's domestic hockey structure was overhauled after the team missed a berth at the 2004 Athens Games by a whisker. The move paid off and the Belgian team is today filled with talented players.
2. Young team.

1. Over-dependence on a few players.
2. Belgium although has experience in playing in the Olympics for a long time, but they came back to the Olympic hockey arena last time after a long hiatus and might still find adjusting with the sport, which has evolved over the years, a tad challenging.

Chances of progress at London Olympics: 2/10
The skipper has set his eye on a top-six finish but that might prove to be a difficult target this year. Belgium is in a tough group and the relatively inexperienced side might see it struggle against top teams. A top-eight finish will be more realistic. Belgium will play their first game against Germany on Jul 30.

Maxime Luycx (c), Vincent Vanasch (gk), Jerome Tryens, Gauthier Boccard, Thomas Briels, Cedric Charlier, Tom Boon, Simon Goughnard, Alexandre De Saedeleer, Jerome Dekeyser, Xavier Reckinger, Jeffry Thys, Felix Denayer, John-John Dohmen, Xavier Reckinger, Florent van Aubel and Benjamin van Hove. Reserves: Manu Leroy (gk) and Elliot Van Strydonck.

Colin Batch, a former Australian player himself, has coached the Belgian men's hockey team since 2010. He replaced Adam Commens and his good work as the Red Lions' coach got an appreciation after he was nominated as the coach of the FIH All-Star team last year. He was the assistant coach of the Australian men's team from 2001-08, one of the most successful playing eras of the Kookaburras. Batch played 175 matches for Australia and was known for his hat-trick against the Netherlands in less than eight minutes.

OneIndia News

Story first published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 14:49 [IST]
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