BELGIUM are not only eight rungs above Malaysia, but also the team to watch in the ongoing World Cup at the Hague, Netherlands.
The Red Lions, as the Belgium men’s team are known, came back from being down 1-2 to beat India 3-2 in their Group A opening match on Saturday.
Malaysia, nicknamed Speedy Tigers, are their next op ponents, and after losing 4-0 to Australia, coach K. Dhar maraj’s men need to be more focussed in defense to thwart a drubbing.
For the record, Belgium also played in the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup where they lost all seven Group A matches and ended 14th out of 16 teams.
Malaysia, back then, finished a laudable eighth, but the tables have been turned 12 years later as Belgium are now the powerhouse in Europe, after finishing second behind Germany in the 2013 European Championships.
Belgium coach Dutchman Marc Lammers has a proud legacy as he took the Dutch team to gold medals at Cham pions Trophy (2004, 2005, 2007), World Cup (2006) and Olympic Games (2008) -- and has high hopes from this Belgian side.
“If we come in fourth, I will be a little disappointed. We want to win a medal, but I always say that you will not win a medal if you don’t focus on the game that is coming up,” said Lammers.
And he also said the “The beauty of this team is that they haven’t won a big tournament so they are hungry.”
The red Lions hunger was on display against India, as they scored the winner 17 seconds from time to steal the show.
And in the four-nation Ergo Masters tournament in Dus seldorf, just 12 days before the World Cup, the Belgians drew 2-2 with Germany and then defeated Holland 2-1 and England 3-2 to win the title.
As for Malaysia, coach Dharmaraj knew that it would be uphill all the way against Australia, but before he left, he said even though the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) are looking for his side to finish 10th among 12 teams -- his personal target is to upset some top sides and try to finish two steps higher.
“Belgium, England, Spain and India will all be difficult to play against, but we hope to steal some points along the way and I believe my players are up to it,” Dharmaraj had said.
RESULTS Group A: Malaysia 0 Australia 4; England 1 Spain 1; Belgium 3 India 2.
Group B: Germany 4 South Africa 0.
MALAYSIA’S World Cup Fixtures (Malaysian time) -- Today: v Belgium (11.30pm); June 5: v England (7pm); June 7: v India (8.30pm); June 9: v Spain (8.30pm).