Belgium vs England
15th December, Saturday, 16:00 IST
Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
The 2018 Hockey World Cup has witnessed some exhilarating matches in the League stage, the crossovers, and the quarterfinal stage.
However, the level of drama will be at a different height altogether as we enter the semifinal stage of the competition.
The first semifinal will be played between England and Belgium. England did not have the best of starts to their campaign as they drew 2-2 against China in their first league match and then lost 0-3 to The Kookaburras in their second. However, Danny Kerry’s troops have turned things around and done exceptionally well since then. The English side defeated Ireland 4-2 in their 3rd league match and set up their crossover game against New Zealand.
After defeating the Black Sticks 2-0 in the crossover, they met Argentina in the quarterfinals. England (FIH Rank 7) even got the better of Los Leones (FIH Rank 2) and caused a 3-2 upset to enter the semifinals.
Barry Middleton, young Will Calnan, Phil Roper, Liam Ansell, David Condon, and Mark Gleghorne are some of the English players who have performed exceptionally well in the competition so far. Belgium must be wary of them in the all-important semifinal encounter as they are capable of causing a lot of problems.
Belgium have been on cruise mode in the competition and are yet to be beaten in the tournament. Two wins and a draw helped Belgium finish 2nd in Pool C. It resulted in their crossover match being set up against Pakistan of Pool C.
As expected, Shane McLeod’s boys were exceptional in the match against the Green Machines and cruised to a 5-0 win to enter the quarterfinals emphatically. The quarterfinal was an intense affair against Germany but they came back from behind to win the match 2-1.
Tom Boon, Alex Hendrickx, Thomas Briels, Cedric Charlier, Simon Gougnard, and Luypaert are some of the Belgian players who are in sublime form. The English side will certainly need to keep an eye for them as they can be on the prowl.
Out of the 8 times the two teams have met since 2013, England went on to win 3, 3 went in favour of the Red Lions, and 2 ended in draws.
Even though Belgium are the higher ranked opponents, one can expect the semifinal to be neck and neck. It will be anyone’s game.
Form Guide (most recent to oldest, pre-season):
Belgium: W W W D W (excellent form)
England: W W W L D (good form)
Head to Head (since 2013):
Won by Belgium: 3
Won by England: 3
Probable Starting XI:
Vincent Vanasch (Goalkeeper), Arthur van Doren, Alexander Hendrickx, Loick Luypaert, Felix Denayer, Simon Gougnard, Gauthier Boccard, Cedric Charlier, Tom Boon, Thomas Briels, Sebastian Dockier
George Pinner (Goalkeeper), Mark Gleghorne, Michael Hoare, Liam Sanford, Barry Middleton, Harry Martin, Phil Roper, David Ames, Liam Ansell, Will Calnan, James Gall
My Dream XI
Goalkeeper: Vincent Vanasch
Vincent Vanasch is Belgium’s experienced custodian. The veteran player is always reliable under the helmet and will be a busy man against an attacking English team.
Defence: Mark Gleghorne, Arthur van Doren, Alexander Hendrickx, Loïck Luypaert
Mark Gleghorne is one of the senior most players in the English side. The 33-year-old brings invaluable experience to the relatively young England team. Hockey runs in his blood as two of his aunts also played the sport at the national level. He was part of the Bronze-medal winning squad at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. However, the prolific drag-flicker will look to ensure that England make a place in the final of the coveted Hockey World Cup and have a shot at winning gold. The previous best finish of England was back in 1986 when they finished runners-up.
Arthur van Doren is one of Belgium’s most reliable men at the back. The 24-year-old has been fantastic in all of Belgium’s matches and is expected to play a crucial role in the semifinal game as well. The brilliance of the defender also earned him the Player of the Match award in the quarterfinal game against Germany.
Alexander Hendrickx has been in prolific goal-scoring form for the Red Lions. The 25-year-old has not only been exceptional defensively but also provided the goals whenever his team have won Penalty Corners. Belgium got nine penalty corners against Germany and converted one of them. The vital equalizing goal came from none other than Hendrickx. Prior to this the defender also scored a goal against India in the 2nd league game, a brace against South Africa in the final league game, and another goal in the crossover against Pakistan.
Loïck Luypaert brings experience to the Belgian backline. His superb game sense allows him to make many timely interceptions in matches. The 27-year-old also possesses a tremendous drag-flicking ability and is the one Belgium go up to during PCs whenever Hendrickx is not on the field. He scored one goal in the win against South Africa. The good thing defensively for The Red Lions is that they conceded no penalty corners in the match against Germany. It will do them a lot of good if they can manage the same against England.
Alternatives: Adam Dixon/Michael Hoare/Luke Taylor/Liam Sanford in place of Mark Gleghorne.
Midfield: Barry Middleton, Simon Gougnard, David Ames
Barry Middleton is England’s seniormost as well as the most experienced player. The 34-year-old has over 430 caps to his name. The prolific midfielder is a neat operator and scored the equalizing goal in the important quarterfinal against Argentina. He was vital in defeating the Rio Olympic champions and will also have a big say in the game against the Rio Olympic Silver medalists Belgium in the semifinal.
Simon Gougnard is one of Belgium’s best midfielders. Not only is he the creator of many goals, but also has a knack of scoring them. The 27-year-old scored two goals in the league stage and was the architect behind one in the knockout stage.
David Ames moves things around brilliantly in the English midfield. The 29-year-old used to play for Ireland from 2008-13 and made his England debut only in 2015. The midfielder has become an important cog in England’s line-up and will look to continue making goal-scoring opportunities for his team like he has been.
Alternatives: James Gall/Harry Martin/David Condon/Phil Roper in place of David Ames
Forward: Liam Ansell, Tom Boon, Will Calnan
The young Liam Ansell has been England’s most dynamic attacking player. His blistering runs and skill with the stick have caused plenty of problems for the opposition. The 25-year-old scored two goals in the league stage and will be rearing to find his name on the scoresheet in the important semifinal against Belgium. The good thing about him, however, is that he will always be there to assist a goal if not score one. He was the architect behind England’s first goal in the 3-2 win against Los Leones in the quarterfinal. Ansell was also unlucky to hit the post once in the match.
28-year-old Tom Boon did not have much of an impact during the league stage but has become a livewire for The Red Lions up front during the knockout stage. He scored once in the 5-0 win over the Green Machines in the crossover game and scored the winner in the game against Germany in the quarterfinal.
England’s young forward Will Calnan has been a delight to watch in the Hockey World Cup. The 22-year-old is full of energy and brings dynamism in English attacks. He has found his feet in the squad and scored one important goal each in the crossover game against New Zealand and the quarterfinal win over Argentina, respectively.
Alternatives: Cedric Charlier/Thomas Briels/Sebastian Dockier in place of Tom Boon.
Must not pick: John-John Dohmen (injury)
Captain: Alexander Hendrickx
Vice-captain: Tom Boon
Player to watch out for: Will Calnan
The youngster has only just burst into the national team and will be hoping to make his place permanent in the team by consistently performing well.