The Red Lions will not compete against host country India in the quarterfinals of the World Cup hockey today. Well – very surprisingly – against New Zealand. Our analyst Eddy Demarez estimates the chances of the Lions in the quarterfinals. “Actually, they can only lose to themselves”, says our man in India.

A pity for the atmosphere in the stadium, but otherwise the Lions will not regret that their opponent in the quarter-finals of the World Cup will not be the organizing country India, but New Zealand.

At the Lions, they almost collectively fell off their seats at the denouement of the crazy shoot-outs between the two countries.

Shoot-outs are often crazy in hockey and also torture for heart patients. Just think of the Lions’ 2021 Olympic final against Australia and their 2018 World Cup final against the Netherlands… But this one could also count: no fewer than 18 players walked towards the goalies.

Always all or nothing.

What no one dared to predict happened – after a haunting denouement – anyway: the home country is not among the last eight. After the bronze of Tokyo – the first Olympic medal in 40 years for the country of hockey – expectations for this World Cup were nevertheless high.

The failure in front of the home crowd will probably cost the Australian national coach of team India his head today, but the Lions also have some extra work after this plot twist.

Talisman McLeod

The preparation of the Lions – which was mainly focused on India – must now be changed considerably.

Fortunately, there is still one Shane McLeod around in the Belgian camp.

Our previous national coach is New Zealander and now an assistant with the Lions. After the Tokyo Games, McLeod went to his homeland with his family for months sabbatical and he used to be national coach of the country.

Tactics, strengths, weaknesses… New Zealand has no secrets for McLeod and therefore not for the Lions. His role in the preparation of the quarterfinals will be a lot more prominent than usual.

On paper, the Lions are also just a huge favorite against the 1976 Olympic champion. Belgium has a lot more experience and intrinsic quality.

That Olympic title was also the only real highlight in the history of the Black Sticks. At a World Cup they never got further than seventh place and in Oceania they are used to playing second fiddle in the shadow of Australia.

With India, the Lions would face an opponent that is much less predictable than New Zealand. Supported and propelled by the swirling stands in Bhubaneswar, you never know how the home side would come at you.

In that respect, much less headaches with New Zealand as an opponent: What you see is what you get.

New Zealand also has a habit of stunting once at every major tournament. They already had that stunt against India. Repeating that again against the Lions, that would be really punishment.

In short: the Lions can only lose to themselves in this quarterfinal.

penalty corner

Losing to New Zealand would be an outright embarrassment to the Lions. Even if it almost certainly has to happen without Alexander Hendrickx’s penalty corner.

In any case, there is still work to be done on the penalty corner at this World Cup, because even with Hendrickx on the field, it barely made a profit. Only 2 of 19 scored a goal. That is far too little.

Fortunately, our attackers score smoothly and the defensive penalty corner is solid as a house: 8 corners given away, but none led to a goal against. It is not for nothing that Vincent “The Wall” Vanasch is in goal, who can also count on kamikaze man Victor Wegnez. Few walk out as fearless and outstanding as he.

Not an unimportant detail in anticipation of the confrontation with New Zealand, because against India the Black Sticks scored a very impressive 2 to 2 on the corner.

If they can repeat that against the Lions, then we do have a genuine thriller in store. It won’t, will it?…

Eddie Demarez

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Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!

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