There was double joy for Belgium as both their men and women registered victories over Great Britain on the final day of the FIH Hockey Pro League mini-tournament in London. The Belgian men did well to rally from a thrashing at the hands of India two days earlier to emerge as 3-2 winners. In the corresponding women’s fixture, three goals in the space of six fourth-quarter minutes saw the Belgians claiming a 3-0 victory.
(Men’s) Great Britain vs Belgium 2-3
The Belgians played with far more energy than they did in their 5-1 defeat at the hands of India on Friday, creating several scoring opportunities in the first quarter. But with GB on the attack, a horrible tackle in front of goal saw them conceding a penalty stroke. Nick Bandurak stepped up to take the stroke for the first time in his international career. While goalkeeper Loic van Doren managed to go the right way, he couldn’t get his left glove down quickly enough to prevent the home side from taking a 1-0 lead.
It took a great save off the line from Loïck Luypaert after the ball had snuck past Van Doren to prevent GB from doubling their lead early in the second quarter. But the Belgians kept up their intensity. And it wasn’t until a minute and half before the half-time break that they were finally rewarded for their efforts. After being awarded a penalty corner following a video referral, Tanguy Cosyns’ powerful drag was whipped into the top left corner for the equaliser.
The Belgians then took the lead in the 36th minute when Nicolas Poncelet received an aerial ball on the baseline and floated it in from the acute angle for the unmarked Thibeau Stockbroekx to knock it in at the back post.
An entertaining final period saw captain Felix Denayer producing a lovely pass into the circle for John-John Dohmen, playing in his 445th match for Belgium, to drill in off the reverse stick for a 3-1 lead.
Just a matter of seconds later Tim Nurse worked his way into the circle on the other side of the pitch, firing it in with a deflection off the Belgian defender.
GB produced some good late pressure and with just under two minutes to go, were awarded a penalty corner. But the shot went wide, and despite a numerical disadvantage, Belgium held on for the 3-2 victory.
Victor Wegnez was named player of the match and said: “I think it was a pretty tough game. It’s always nice to play in London because it always in a full stadium. I think we played a solid game, a defensive one and offensively. We played against a full GB squad and we’re still missing about five or six players so it’s pretty good for the future of Belgium.”
(Women’s) Great Britain vs Belgium 0-3
Belgium headed into their final match of the weekend against GB unbeaten in the London mini-tournament. They enjoyed much of the possession in the first half, but GB goalkeeper Sabbie Heesh showed some impressive form to ensure the match remained goalless at half time.
While GB came out stronger in the second half, the Belgians still enjoyed the upper hand, applying relentless pressure on the home side. That pressure finally paid off in a prolific fourth quarter for the Belgians with three goals scored in the space of six minutes.
After taking a quick free hit from their own baseline, Belgium moved the ball upfield for Judith Vandermeiren to take it into the circle. She laid it off for Alix Geniers to finally get the better of Heesh.
Charlotte Englebert then scored two goals in two minutes – the first a magnificent reverse stick strike.
The second was a solo effort, with the 22-year-old turning it over well inside her own half and running 60m before finishing with a sublime flick over the right shoulder of the GB keeper.
The 3-0 victory means Belgium completed the mini-tournament with 12 points from a possible 12, so jumping ahead of GB into third place in the standings having played four matches less than the two teams above them.
Charlotte Englebert was named player of the match and said: “We took it as a final and we played it as a final so it’s nice to have 12 points. That’s what we were aiming for so it’s a nice feeling… We have a lot of expectations for ourselves and we’re going to work hard for the next Pro League games because it’s tough teams we get. We’re not done yet and we still have a lot of training to do so it’s going to be a nice time.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 4 June 2023
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London (GBR)
Result: Men’s Match 42
Great Britain 2-3 Belgium
Player of the Game: Victor Wegnez (BEL)
Umpires: Hong-Zhen Lim (SGP), Sean Rapaport (RSA), Ayanna McClean (TTO-video)
Result: Women’s Match 42
Great Britain 0-3 Belgium
Player of the Game: Charlotte Englebert (BEL)
Umpires: Ayanna McClean (TTO), Wanri Venter (RSA), Sean Rapaport (RSA-video)