After a marvelous start to the second edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League which saw them defeat Australia and New Zealand away from home, World Champions and World No. 1 Belgium Hockey Team arrived in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday night to face World No. 5 Indian Men's Hockey Team in two grueling encounters of the competition which take place on 8th and 9th February 2020 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium.
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The Belgian team led by experienced midfielder Thomas Briels, arrived in the Temple City brimming with confidence ahead of their two FIH Hockey Pro League matches against hosts India.
Expressing delight at the prospect of playing India at the iconic Kalinga Hockey Stadium, Briels said he's looking forward to playing at the venue where his side lifted the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup trophy in 2018.
"It feels really good to be back in the city where we became the World Champions. We have some amazing memories of playing here, and it is always a great spectacle when we step foot onto the turf at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium, so I'm expecting a great round of matches against India, who have also improved massively in the past couple of years," said the 32-year-old.
Having already tasted success in their away matches against former World No. 1 Australia and World No. 8 New Zealand with victories in all four matches, Belgium currently sit atop the points table with 11 points, while India are currently fifth with 5 points from their two matches which they played against the Dutch in January. Speaking on the importance of playing a competition like the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 before the Tokyo Olympics, Briels said it serves them well.
"I think the FIH Hockey Pro League is a really good competition for us to take part in, right before the Olympic Games. It gives us time to prepare ourselves well, and also face tough competition along the way. We have started the competition well, and want to make sure we keep the momentum. The team is really working hard, and we had some hard training sessions in Australia as well before arriving here," said the veteran.
Commenting on opponents India, Briels said he expects a good fight on 8th and 9th February, "India is looking really sharp as well, and they have been playing well which is something we saw in their initial two matches against the Dutch. We expect a tough couple of matches, and its going to be a good fight for us as well. Of course, we are wary of the threat that they possess, but we are really excited to play a tough opponent like India so we can improve further before the Olympics."
Belgium's World Cup-winning Coach Shane McLeod commented on playing at the Kalinga Stadium. He said, "We really like playing at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium, it is one of the best in the world, and we have a good record here. We have played 10 times, and have won on eight occasions and drawn two times. We enjoy the crowd being out there, along with the really nice atmosphere which we are expecting again during the match days this weekend."
The FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 trophy also arrived in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday night. The FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 Trophy will be taken on a tour across the host city of Bhubaneswar over the course of next few days leading up to the matches on the weekend, with hockey buffs getting the chance to witness the trophy live.
India will take on the Belgium on 08 and 09 January at 1700hrs IST at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar.