10 days, 16 teams, 40 matches and up to 80,000 fans, the Belfius EuroHockey Championship (16th – 25th August) promises to be a true festival of hockey as many of the sport’s best nations battle for continental supremacy.
It all takes place in the spectacular new Wilrijkse Plein stadium in Antwerp where our Belgian hosts are hoping to make “Red the new gold” from two #EquallyAmazing eight-team tournaments.
Today, we look at the entrants who will be battling it out for the men’s title:
Belgium (World rank: 2)
In front of a loud and boisterous home crowd, will this be the year that Belgium finally climb to the top of the medal podium on the European stage? The Red Lions have been knocking on the door for the last decade, winning silver medals in 2013 and 2017 and have only missed the semi-finals three times since 1991.
Their breakthrough World Cup win last December in India makes them one of the obvious contenders for the title. They have a star-studded set of players to select from with FIH Player of the Year Arthur van Doren, the iconic Tom Boon and FIH goalkeeper of the Year Vincent Vanasch.
Indeed, 18 of the 20 players used in the World Cup are included in this panel with Sebastien Dockier and Augustin Merumans the only two to miss out.
England (World rank: 6)
The 2009 winners aim to make their mark again following some big performances in major tournaments in the last few years under coach Danny Kerry. These include a World Cup fourth-place finish, a result matched by their fourth in the Pro League earlier this year while they took bronze at the 2017 Euros.
Phil Roper, one of the team leaders, found a rich vein of form in front of goal in the Pro League while Sam Ward and Mark Gleghorne are always a big threat. Ashley Jackson, the country’s all-time top goalscorer, made a dramatic return to their ranks in the summer after a long time out and could make a big impact. Adam Dixon will captain the team which features five newcomers to Euro action with 19-year-old Zach Wallace the youngest gun.
Spain (World rank: 9)
Spain is gunning for a first European medal since 2007 during their golden era. Recently, they are on a run of fifth and sixth-place finishes in the continental competition. They had a tough season in the Pro League, earning two wins out of 14 games in normal time – against Australia and New Zealand – but they did win five shoot-outs from five, making them a danger in that phase of the game should it come to it.
Pau Quemada, at 35, is still an ace goalscorer, netting 10 times in 12 Pro League games while Quico Cortes is in his 16th year as an international.
Enrique Gonzalez, Llorenc Piera and Joan Tarres are the rising stars of their new generation. They are hoping back to the glory days when they won the 2005 title in between two silver medals.
Wales (World rank 25)
Wales will contest the EuroHockey Championships top level for the first time since 1999 when the competition had 12 nations taking part. They finished sixth that year, their best ever performance.
They earned their place in Antwerp with a run to the second-tier final in 2017 in Glasgow and they have seen their world ranking jump from outside the top 30 to 25.
Co-captained by Lewis Prosser and Luke Hawker, Gareth Furlong is the man they usually look to for the goals from penalty corners. Earlier this year, Wales finished fifth at the FIH Series Finals in Kuala Lumpur where they did impress in victory over tenth-ranked Canada.
Netherlands (World rank: 3)
Five-time Euro winners, the Netherlands, are the reigning champions and going for three victories in-a-row. Indeed, the Oranje have never been outside the top four in this elite competition with seven silver medals and three bronze finishes from 16 appearances.
In the Pro League, the Dutch finished in third place while the World Cup in December ended with a silver medal. Each time, Belgium – who they beat in the 2017 Euro final – has been their nemesis, building an intense rivalry which could have its latest showdown here.
Jeroen Hertzberger top scored in the Pro League while Mirco Pruijser was breathtaking from open play and there is plenty of menace throughout their attacking options like Bjorn Kellerman, Jelle Galema and Billy Bakker.
Germany (World rank: 7)
Germany has won the men’s European Championships more than any other nation with eight successes since the competition was introduced in 1970. They also won the Euros the last time the tournament was played in Belgium in 2013 and they will hope to repeat the feat.
They are, however, going through a tricky phase, missing out on a medal in Amsterdam in 2017 while they did not reach the World Cup and Pro League semi-finals. Write them off at your peril, though; with the glorious skills of Florian Fuchs and Timm Herzbruch along with the midfield trickery of Mats Grambusch, they have loads of star power.
Ireland (World rank: 11)
The Green Machine are playing in their fifth successive edition of the EuroHockey Championships, keeping their place two years ago with a dramatic draw against Austria. Ireland has become a fixture in the world’s top 12 in recent years following Olympic qualification in 2016 and – their most famous day – European bronze in 2015.
Shane O’Donoghue recently became the first Irish player to score 100 international goals earlier this year but their star goalkeeper David Harte is a big miss, unavailable due to injury.
They are undergoing a regeneration with new young players making their mark under the coaching of Alexander Cox who oversaw their run to the top two at the FIH Series Finals in France this summer.
Scotland (World rank 21)
Scotland is back in the top tier of European Championship hockey for the first time since 2005 following their excellent promotion in Glasgow in 2017. It has been a special couple of years for the country who have earned promotion in both the men’s and women’s Under-18 and 21 youth European competitions as well.
Now, the challenge is for them to stay there with a tough group featuring Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. They will be boosted by a recent win over Spain and while they lost to Ireland in the FIH Series Finals this summer, they will add star striker Alan Forsyth and Lee Morton to their line-up.
They were part of Great Britain’s Pro League squad and they are buoyed by a recent win over Spain in their warm-up series. Cameron Golden is one to watch following star shows in the FIH Series and Under-21 EuroHockey Junior Championships II.
All games are available on www.eurohockeytv.org via an event pass of €9.99 (GEO blocked in Belgium)
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