Preview: Great Britain vs Belgium

Ian Sloan is mobbed after scoring for GB against Australia GETTY

Bobby Crutchley’s Great Britain side will head into their final Pool A match with Belgium brimming with confidence.

After beating Canada 3-1 in their opening game, Great Britain were in scintillating form on Sunday in their second match, downing World Champions Australia 5-2. Five different scorers registered for Crutchley’s men with Henry Weir helping himself to his first Great Britain goal whilst Chris Grassick, Ian Sloan, David Condon and Phil Roper piled on the misery for the Kookaburras.

With Britain choosing to give chances to different players in this tournament, the result was seen by many as a surprise win. Whilst delighted with the efforts of his team, Head Coach Bobby Crutchley was keen to ensure his side keep their feet on the ground:

“We’re delighted with the result. Some of the players really stepped up today and showed what they can do, but this is only one game and we need to back it up with a performance in the next game, too.”

Players stepping up to the mark is what the coach was hoping for when he selected his squad for this competition. Crutchley has emphasised the importance of being able to gauge the progress of his wider squad. With players like Ian Sloan, Chris Grassick, Alan Forsyth and Harry Gibson coming into their first senior international tournament for Great Britain and other players like Phil Roper and Sam Ward still relatively inexperienced at this level, the competition was deemed to be a good test of where these players are in their development. Undoubtedly the Australia win will give them plenty to build on, but Crutchley re-iterates his desire to see his players produce such performances with regularity, knowing Belgium will pose a stiff contest on Tuesday:

“We’ve always said the best teams have 25 players capable of playing in these games and we want to build that sort of squad size for ourselves. Australia was a step in the right direction but we aren’t getting carried away. We’ll gain confidence from this of course, but Belgium next is a tough game and a completely different style and different test to the previous two. We’ll enjoy our wins but they won’t mean anything if we don’t back it up with more quality performances in the upcoming games.”

Belgium are a side Crutchley and his team know very well. The two teams met at the World League semi final and shared a 2-2 draw with Barry Middleton and Alastair Brogdon on the score sheet for GB. Before that the last meeting between Great Britain and Belgium was in the 2004 Olympic Qualifiers, where GB ran out 2-1 winners. Despite this, with a large number of England players in the Great Britain squad, England’s frequent meetings with the Red Lions mean the two sides hold few surprises for each other.
One of the most famous and dramatic meetings between the Red Lions and England was at the 2014 World Cup when England’s and Iain Lewers' nerves of steel helped them to the semi-finals with a 3-2 win over their European rivals.

Belgium have made huge strides forward over the past ten years and are now rated as one of the most feared attacking sides on the planet. The squad that competed in July’s FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Antwerp contained ten players that had surpassed the 100 international appearances mark, including double centurions John-John Dohmen, Jerome Truyens and Thomas Briels.
A fifth place finish at the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 was a big disappointment for the team, but under new coach Shane McLeod they have shown their attacking flair already in this tournament, narrowly losing out to Australia in their opening match before smashing seven past Canada in match two. Led by Captain John-John Dohmen, a classy, creative midfielder who rarely puts a foot wrong, Belgium will be keen to put a marker down and really kick start their tournament on Tuesday.

Games between Bobby Crutchley's sides and the Belgians are rarely dull and with both sides hitting a purple patch in front of goal in their last games, it is unlikely to be a quiet 0-0 draw.

Make sure you tune in to BT Sport at 3pm to watch all of the action live!

GB vs Bel HWL2015

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