Belgium v Spain: Belfius EuroHockey Nations Championships 2019 1

Belgium v Spain: Belfius EuroHockey Nations Championships 2019

THE GAME
The EuroHockey Nations Championships 2019 started with a single game on a Friday night to draw in the local faithful. Not long ago you’d have had Spain as narrow favourites for this game. Nowadays you’d get odd looks if you bet against Belgium.
The atmosphere was fierce and the Red Tribe of supporters could be heard around the stadium throughout. The hosts rose to the rapture of their fans and from the off were totally dominant. Alexander Hendrickx opened the scoring for the event with a drag flick. His first attempt was denied by the excellent Quico Cortes in the Spanish goal but his second found the net in the ninth minute.
Belgium v Spain: Belfius EuroHockey Nations Championships 2019 2
Frustration got the better of Spain at this point and Josep Romeu picked up an entirely unnecessary green card for back chat. Spain’s frustration grew further as the second Belgian goal came through a clear umpiring error. The ball lifted into the circle and straight down to two opposing players, the defender did not retreat and the PC was awarded. If a referral had been made it was inconceivable that it would have stood, but the Spanish tried to swallow it up. A broken down PC fell to Victor Wegnez who cooly finished in a slap to the bottom right corner from close range on 19 minutes.
The third quarter was a quiet affair but things opened up in the final quarter as Belgium asserted themselves fully. First Tom Boon netted his first of the campaign, a shot couldn’t clear the pads of Cortes and Boon swept in to convert from inches out. Hendrickx then got his second two minutes later through another PC and then Antoine Kina spotted the near post had been left open and struck into it a further two minutes later. Three goals in as many minutes and it was now 5-0.
Belgium v Spain: Belfius EuroHockey Nations Championships 2019 3
As the game progressed it became clear this was men against boys in many ways. The discipline of the Belgians was incredible. A relentless determination to set up and defend from the front to the back made it nearly impossible for Spain to get a meaningful penetration. Sterner tests no doubt await the Belgians but this was an ominous start in front of a feverish home crowd.

THE EVENT

Belgium v Spain: Belfius EuroHockey Nations Championships 2019 4
As you walk into the spectator areas; the retail park, the food area and the experience zones you cannot help but be in awe. It is on another level of professional presentation and the hosts have presented it brilliantly. All the retailers you could hope to fawn over are here. Osaka have a characteristically over the top outlet, Hockey Player have replicated their delightful Ixelles store and there are a few emerging brands too like Y1 with possibly the greatest unofficial shirt for an event you’ll ever see. On the negative side the Belgian replica shirt requires a mortgage to purchase and English supporters will be outraged to read there are no England shirts for sale at Adidas!

The organisation of the venue will hopefully get through it’s teething problems. No volunteers seemed to know where anything was and important things like receipts and card machines were failing, and food prices seemed to rarely reflect the advertised price.

But with the benefit of the doubt, this being an opening night for primarily local supporters, we shall see what the coming days hold!