FIH Pro League Preview: Belgium v GB

FIH Pro League Preview: Belgium v GB
Great Britain’s men and women face Belgium on Thursday 30 May in an away FIH Pro League double header. Having faced both Belgium sides at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre less than a fortnight ago, the teams will lock horns again in Antwerp with the games starting from 12:30pm BST live on BT Sport.

GB men targeting a return to winning ways
After making a flying start to the FIH Pro League, Great Britain’s men will be looking to rediscover the form that has seen them consistently hold a top four place after recently suffering consecutive defeats for the first time in the league.

Defeats to Argentina and Belgium last time out means that GB have won four, drawn one and lost three games with just over half of their matches played.

Coming up is a tricky run of games for the GB squad who have four games inside nine days as they take on Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia in a short period of time.

Currently sitting in fourth place, Great Britain will have to get some more wins on the board through their remaining matches if they are to finish in the top four and secure a Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifier match.

Phil Roper and Sam Ward are joint second in the FIH Pro League top scorers list with six goals, no player has scored more goals from a penalty corner than Ward's tally of four.

Since their last meeting with Belgium, Great Britain have made three changes with Michael Hoare, Luke Taylor and Henry Weir coming into the squad in place of Liam Ansell, Rhys Smith and Ollie Willars.

GB v Belgium

GB women looking to do the double over Belgium
After defeating Belgium 2-0 last time out thanks to stunning strikes from Grace Balsdon, who was making her 50th international appearance, and Lily Owsley, Great Britain’s women’s team will head into Thursday’s double header match, which commences at 2:30pm BST, full of confidence.

Victory over Belgium would help sixth placed GB in their attempts to catch the Red Panthers who currently sit fourth in the FIH Pro League table.

Having picked up four points from their previous two matches, Great Britain’s women’s side have found some form going into their final six matches and will be looking to add to that tally in Antwerp on Thursday.

It’s a demanding time for the squad who face a daunting test against the Netherlands in Eindhoven just two days after the Belgium match. It will be Great Britain’s final away match in the FIH Pro League with the team finishing the league with four consecutive home games against Germany, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

The squad has been cut from 21 to 19 for the Belgium and Netherlands matches with Nicki Cochrane and Lizzie Neal replacing Lily Owsley, Ellie Rayer, Amy Tennant and Susannah Townsend. After making her international debut against Argentina a fortnight ago, 18-year-old Izzy Petter keeps her place in the squad and could make her first away appearance.

Belgium’s men looking to keep unbeaten run alive
Belgium have shown why they are the number one ranked side in the world with some superb performances through the FIH Pro League.

With six games played, they are yet to lose a game after winning four and drawing two as they sit top of the table, just ahead of Australia.

This Belgium side have looked slick and effective so far, currently averaging the most goals scored (4.16 per match) and fewest conceded (2) in the FIH Pro League.

The reigning World Champions have a supremely talented squad which notably features Arthur van Doren (FIH Player of the Year), Arthur de Sloover (FIH Young Player of the Year) and Vincent Vanasch (FIH Goalkeeper of the Year) and, despite having played the fewest games in the league, have looked a match for any side.

Though they still have over half their games left to play, their form in the early rounds will serve great encouragement that they can finish high up in the table and secure a qualifier match for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

GB v Belgium

Red Panthers hoping to hold onto top four perch
Having started the FIH Pro League competition with some strong performances and important wins, Belgium’s women’s team will be battling hard to maintain their top four position and secure an Olympic qualifier match.

Despite being the lowest ranked side in the league, Belgium have impressed and will be hoping to achieve qualification for a first Olympics since London 2012.

Exactly halfway through their fixtures, Belgium have eight games left to play, six of which are at home where they are yet to lose a game after defeating China and the USA in Brussels earlier in the year. 

Last time out, Belgium defeated China 5-4 in a shootout following a 3-3 regular time draw in which they trailed 3-1 before two goals in the final ten minutes levelled the scores.

Defeat to Great Britain on Thursday would see Belgium sit just one point ahead of fifth placed Germany, who they will then face on Saturday in a critical run of matches in the quest for a top four finish.

There's less than one month to go until Great Britain make history and play at Harlequins' Tickenham Stoop Stadium in a double header match against New Zealand on June 23, be part of the big event and secure your tickets by clicking HERE