Belgians eyeing more glory

Over the last few years, Belgium have taken rapid strides on the world hockey stage. Ranked five in the world, they are among the favourites in the Hockey World League Final beginning here on Friday. Head coach Marc Lammers feels the way his side has improved in the past one year they are close to been rated among the top three teams in the world.

A renowned coach, Lammers, who took charge in November 2012, had guided the Netherlands women’s team to Olympic silver at Athens and gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

That he is as good with the men’s team is documented by Belgium’s two victories over current world champions Australia on their way to winning the Hockey World League Semifinal in Rotterdam. Under him, Belgium also finished runners-up in EuroHockey Nations continental championship, losing to Germany in the final.

Lammers said the World League Final is like a “mini World Cup”.

“We have the youngest side here in this tournament. We are a strong team now, but we are improving. We have improved a lot last year and closing in on the top three sides,” Lammers said on Sunday after a practice session.

“For us, it is a big tournament. It is like a mini World Cup with the best eight countries of world hockey participating.”

Satisfied with prep

The legendary Dutch coach was satisfied with his team’s preparations and looked forward to meet the world’s three best teams -- Australia, Holland and Germany -- in the competition.
“The preparation has gone very well for us. We have four new guys in our team. It is not so cold in Belgium, so we could do the best of training. The fact we have come here eight days early will also help us,” he said.
“We have world’s three best teams playing here. We have to meet Australia and Holland before the quarterfinals. It will be tough but we are here to do our best.”
Lammers said his side followed “mixed style” of play. “It is a mixture, but for me it is typical of Belgium. We are really good in defending and sneaking in with the ball as also counter-attacking. We are also good in penalty corners and goalkeeping. Like Australia, we play a lot of physical hockey too.”
Asked to name his favourite in this tournament, Lammers said: “The Netherlands are not missing any players and for me they are the favourites.”

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