The names of the players who will be representing Belgium at the Belfius EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp in a couple of weeks are known. Red Lions' national coach Shane McLeod and Red Panthers' national coach Niels Thijssen have selected 18 players each.
Forwards Sébastien Dockier, Tanguy Cosyns and Maxime Plennevaux missed out on a place in the definitive 18-strong selection of Shane McLeod. The same goes for young players Nicolas Poncelet and Augustin Meurmans.
What is most remarkable is the absence of Dockier. In the last couple of years, he has always been selected, and he has helped the Red Lions become Olympic Vice-Champions in 2016 and World Champions in 2018. "It was a difficult puzzle", stated McLeod. "The competition is fierce, especially among the Forwards. The fact that Dockier has not been selected, is far from a punishment. It goes without saying that he can be back on the team for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year."
On Friday 16th August, the Belgians will play the opening match of the Belfius EuroHockey Championships, the European Hockey Championships, against Spain. Two days later, they will face England and another two days later, Wales will be the opponent. The semi-finals will be played on Thursday 22nd August, the final is on Saturday 24th August.
For the Red Panthers, national coach Niels Thijssen included former Canadian international Abigail Raye in the selection of 18. Raye has racked up 155 caps for Canada, but has not played for her country since 2016, and also has the Belgian nationality. Now, the 28-year-old defender has been called up to join the Red Panthers for the first time, and they will open their tournament against defending champions and the number 1 in the world The Netherlands on 17th August.
At the previous European Championships in Amstelveen in 2017, the Belgians surprisingly made it to the finals. Nevertheless, national coach Thijssen is trying to keep off the pressure for the number 9 of the world. "We are only the sixth European nation in the ranking, and never before has a country in sixth place won the European Championships", says the Dutchman.
"Of course, we will try to win every match, but it does not seem like a realistic goal to go for the golden medal. It is a dream, but our true goal is to just play every match as best as we can."
After their tricky opening match against The Netherlands on 17th August, the Red Panthers will face Russia (19/08) and Spain (21/08). The semi-finals are scheduled to take place on 23rd August, and the final on Sunday 25th August.
European Championships in your own country also means brand new shirts. Those were also presented at a press conference in Antwerp on Tuesday afternoon.
Selection Red Lions
|Goalkeepers: Vincent Vanasch, Loïc Van Doren
Defenders: Arthur Van Doren, Arthur de Sloover, Gauthier Boccard, Alexander Hendrickx, Loïck Luypaert, Emmanuel Stockbroekx
Midfielders: John-John Dohmen, Simon Gougnard, Victor Wegnez, Felix Denayer, Antoine Kina
Forwards: Thomas Briels, Cédric Charlier, Tom Boon, Florent Van Aubel, Nicolas De Kerpel
Selection Red Panthers
|Goalkeepers: Aisling D'Hooghe, Elodie Picard
Defenders: Lien Hillewaert, Judith Vandermeiren, Stephanie Vanden Borre, Emma Puvrez, Aline Fobe, Abigail Raye
Midfielders: Barbara Nelen, Alix Gerniers, Sophie Limauge, Pauline Leclef, Michelle Struijk
Forwards: Jill Boon, Louise Versavel, Anne-Sophie Weyns, Ambre Ballenghien, Emilie Sinia