When Belgium men open their defence of the World Cup next month in Bhubaneswar, they will do so with what coach Michel van den Heuvel describes as “an older group, but it is very special.” Indeed, there may be 11 players aged 31 or over in the world No 2’s squad, but they have Euro, world and Olympic success behind them.
Van den Heuvel announced his 18-strong squad on Monday with no real surprises, bolters or omissions. The aim, said Van den Heuvel, was to bring the trophy back to Brussels and recall those heady memories of celebrations.
“I’ve been working with these guys for five years and I see that they are still progressing,” he told reporters. “These are the best players in Belgium at the moment.”
“I don’t think you can immediately be top in the group stage, but we do want to win our group. I have the feeling that our level will be sufficient to succeed in that.”
Belgium open up against South Korea on Jan 14 before a clash with Germany and a date with Japan in Rourkela to end their group phase.
“Even though this group has been together for a long time, everyone is still very hungry,” admitted midfielder Félix Denayer, who said there could be “seven or eight teams” in the mix for the trophy.
“There is always an exciting moment just before a World Cup, because we want to be prepared for every match scenario.”
Stalwarts John-John Dohmen, 34, and Félix Denayer, 32, will resume their leadership role, while thirty somethings Tom Boon, Florent van Aubel and Sebastien Dockier are also picked.
The World Cup takes place in India from Jan 13 to 29. The Hockey Paper will provide full coverage of the tournament.
Louis Van Doren, Vincent Vanash, Arthur Van Doren, Gauthier Boccard, Alexander Hendrikx, Arthur De Slover, Loick Luypaert, John-John Dohmen, Felix Denayer, Simon Gougnard, Anthony Kina, Victor Wegnez, Florent van Aubel, Sebastian Dockeier, Cedric Charlier, Nico DeKerpel, Tom Bean, Tanguy Cosyns. Reserves: Thibeau Stockbroekx, Maxime Van East