Belgium vs Netherlands
16th December, Sunday, 19:00 IST
Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
After 18 days of intense action, the 2018 Hockey World Cup reaches its epic finale this Sunday. Belgium take on three-time champions Netherlands for the coveted title.
Interestingly, Belgium are the only unbeaten team left in the tournament. They began their campaign with an unconvincing 2-1 victory over Canada. A scrambling 2-2 draw against hosts India followed. Although they beat South Africa 5-1 in their final group match, the Red Lions had to enter the Crossover due to India’s superior goal difference.
Upon dispatching Pakistan 5-0, Belgium stormed into the quarterfinals. They vanquished European heavyweights Germany in a pulsating encounter. The Red Lions reserved their best for the semifinals. They steamrollered England by a comprehensive margin of 6-0 to enter the title clash.
On the other hand, Netherlands announced their arrival with a splendid 7-0 triumph over Malaysia in their opening group game. However, they were given a reality check by Germany who defeated them 4-1. The Dutch roared back with a 5-1 thrashing of Pakistan in their final group match.
Having brushed aside Canada in the Crossover, Netherlands met hosts India in the quarterfinals. In an enthralling encounter, they overrode the massive crowd support and edged past the Men in Blue with a narrow 2-1 victory. After being held in regulation time, the Dutch prevailed over defending champions Australia during a high-octane penalty shootout in the semifinals.
Form Guide (most recent to oldest):
Belgium: W W W W D (Excellent form)
Netherlands: W W W W L (Excellent form)
Head to Head (since 2013):
Won by Belgium: 5
Won by Netherlands: 6
Probable Starting XI:
Vincent Vanasch (Goalkeeper), Arthur van Doren, Alexander Hendrickx, Loïck Luypaert, Gauthier Boccard, Nicolas De Kerpel, Simon Gougnard, Victor Wegnez, Thomas Briels (Captain), Tom Boon and Sébastien Dockier
Pirmin Blaak (Goalkeeper), Lars Balk, Sander Baart, Mink van der Weerden, Glenn Schuurman, Robbert Kemperman, Billy Bakker (Captain), Seve van Ass, Thierry Brinkman, Jeroen Hertzberger and Mirco Pruijser
My Dream XI
Goalkeeper: Pirmin Blaak
Pirmin Blaak has probably etched his name in history books as the man who stopped Australia’s march towards a hat-trick of World Cup titles. The goalkeeper’s remarkable composure in the nerve-wracking penalty shootout should inspire the Dutch players in the title clash.
Defence: Arthur van Doren, Alexander Hendrickx, Loïck Luypaert and Mink van der Weerden
With multiple Player of the Match awards in the 2018 World Cup, Arthur van Doren has established himself as a dependable defender. All eyes will be on ace drag-flicker Alexander Hendrickx as the Red Lions actively look to target the opposition’s feet in the inner circle. Loïck Luypaert’s calming influence has played a key role in enabling Belgium to control the game from a defense point of view.
In Mink van der Weerden, Netherlands have a reliable operator manning their back-line. The 30-year old will look to draw from his vast reservoirs of experience in such a high-pressure final.
Alternatives: Sander Baart in place of Loïck Luypaert
Midfield: Simon Gougnard, Robbert Kemperman and Nicolas De Kerpel
Simon Gougnard’s penchant for scoring crucial goals should augur well for Belgium. He has created numerous chances for the Red Lions by manoeuvring the field and splitting defence lines.
Netherlands have scored a whopping 22 goals in the tournament thus far. Their ability to strike when the iron is hot stems from the versatility of midfielder Robbert Kemperman, who has stitched together plenty of productive passes through to the inner circle and helped create panic in the opposition ranks.
Belgium’s Nicolas De Kerpel rounds up the midfield in this team, having put up strong performances against Pakistan in the Crossover match, and the 6-0 routing of England in the semi-finals.
Alternatives: Billy Bakker in place of Simon Gougnard
Forwards: Tom Boon, Mirco Pruijser and Thierry Brinkman
After being inconspicuous during the group stages, Tom Boon has risen to the occasion when it has mattered. His capacity to poach valuable goals has bolstered Belgium’s fortunes in the knockout phase. The onus will be on the 28-year old to add to his tournament tally of three goals and make an indelible impact in the final.
Dutch forward Mirco Pruijser started the 2018 Hockey World Cup with a bang, scoring in the opening game against Malaysia. He has since been a bit-part player, but his experience will come in handy in a big game like the final.
Thierry Brinkman’s subtle deflection was vital to Netherlands’ cause during their semifinal clash against India. Each one of his four goals has been a by-product of his terrific positioning and astute awareness in the inner circle. Expect the 23-year old to come up with another game-changing display in the all-important title clash.
Alternatives: Sébastien Dockier in place of Mirco Pruyser
Captain: Thierry Brinkman
Vice-captain: Tom Boon
Player to watch out for: Alexander Hendrickx
With as many as seven goals in his kitty, Alexander Hendrickx is the leading goal-scorer in the tournament thus far. Whenever Belgium earn a penalty corner, their in-form drag-flicker will be on the prowl.