Bhubaneswar, Jan 28 (PTI): Olympic champions Belgium will look to overcome a resilient Germany and become only the fourth nation to defend the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup title when the two sides clash in the final here on Sunday.
Pakistan, Australia and Germany have won back-to-back titles in the past and Belgium, who made it to the world’s elite just around a decade ago, would seek to achieve that feat and defend their title, which they won in 2018, at the same Kalinga Stadium. With 11 players aged above 30 and three above 35, Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ of hockey players, who have won the 2018 World Cup and Tokyo Olympics golds, have shown that they are supremely fit and experience matters more than age.
Belgium have come with the bulk of team which had won the last edition of the event and Tokyo Games.
It is difficult to find out any major weakness in this Belgium team which has some of the world’s finest attacking and defensive players as well as penalty corner specialists.
They also have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in the form of Vincent Vanasch.
Belgium have scored 18 goals with star striker Tom Boon contributing seven, and conceded just five in as many matches.
But the world no.2 side would be wary of the ‘German culture of resilience’ which has been in full display in this World Cup as the Die Honamas twice came back from 0-2 down to reach the final.
Two-time champions Germany (2002 and 2006) were trailing by two goals against England in the quarterfinals but struck twice in the last two and half minutes to take the game into penalty shootout, where they emerged winner.
In the semifinals on Friday, world number four Germans were again trailing Australia, one of the title contenders, by 0-2 at half time but their never-say-die attitude came to the fore as they made fought back to level the scores before finding the winner in dramatic fashion with just six seconds left on the clock.
“We have a lot of respect for the German side who came out of jail twice in this tournament and won. That is something which is there in their culture,” Belgium head coach Michel van del Heuvel said.
“Germany are a very tough side. We hope to save our best for the last. We will analyse their game and chalk out our plan,” added Belgium captain Felix Denayer.
The depth in the Belgium team can also be gauged from the fact that the absence of penalty corner expert and star defender Alexander Hendrickx due to injury early in the tournament was not felt.