The national men’s team dreams of medals at the Euros and the World Cup. But to achieve this goal, it will still have to grow and take a new step in its development.
Awhen the first round of the competition is in full swing and there are still 4 days to go before the winter break, the staff of the national men’s indoor team prepares, behind the scenes, its big comeback and especially the details of the preparation for the next deadlines that point the tip of their nose. A European Championship, in Hamburg, from December 8 to 11 and a World Cup, in Pretoria, South Africa, at the beginning of February 2023. Two meetings which above all sign the great return of international tournaments after a long interruption in due to the global pandemic.
The 6th place won during Euro 2020, in Berlin, was very disappointing. The group therefore wishes to move forward by learning the lessons of this last outing but above all to demonstrate that it has certain qualities. “We have a first meeting on Monday to launch our preparation campaign,” said Maxime Bergez, the national coach. “We had already imagined organizing 1 or 2 training sessions during the international break imposed by the Pro League, but we are well aware that clubs want to let their players breathe due to fatigue and minor injuries. We will therefore begin our preparation only after the first round of the championship. We will train 3 times the first week and then twice the second. We will then play a 4 Nations tournament, on December 3 and 4, in Belgium, with Switzerland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. »
And as in recent years, it is at the “Sport village”, in Lasne, that the Indoor Red Lions will work to take advantage of the best possible infrastructure but above all in order to have a room where you can adapt the width of the field. (22 or 24 meters) to replicate the specific size of Euro or World Cup playing surfaces. And for the first time, the staff will be able to rely on a group with a fairly broad base as confirmed by the Belgian coach. “We also want to prepare for the future with young people like Thomas Joye, Grégoire Brocorens or Manu Cockelaere. And even if they can’t fully commit, it will buy us time for the future when other executives step aside. »
Offer a less stereotyped game with a touch of madness
A nucleus in which we find routines like Romain Henet, Tanguy Zimmer, Gaëtan Dykmans, Max Plennevaux, Philippe Simar or Alex de Paeuw but also talents like Dylan Englebert or Nelson Onana, who will be fully involved in the indoor program since he is not taken up with the Red Lions for the preparation of the Outdoor World Cup in India. After the repeated postponements and cancellations of tournaments in recent years, including the World Cup, initially scheduled in Liège, in February 2021, indoor hockey has not had a lot of opportunities to assess its level. But nothing really to worry about Maxime Bergez. “We are certainly not starting from zero because the championship took place normally last season. We have been able to work to put in place certain basics of team culture and develop certain game systems. We will therefore continue the work. The group is extremely motivated because there has been a lack in recent seasons. We can see it because they are ready to make many sacrifices to be part of this project since they are not paid and they have to take a lot of days off to participate in tournaments. »
At the Euro, the Indoor Red Lions will have certain ambitions even if the formula has been redesigned due to the absences of Russia and Belarus. The Belgians will face Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Switzerland with the desire to finish in the last four. “Currently, we are worth a 5th place but we have to overcome this milestone. We still need to improve the professional side. We need to attract quality players and get them interested in indoors to keep the momentum going. We will have to be competitive in Hamburg and aim for the semi-finals like in the World Cup. We are still looking for our true indoor DNA. We can disturb our adversaries. We are trying to offer a less stereotyped game but we are not yet rigorous enough. We have to grow and cultivate this point of madness. Today, it allows us to hurt other teams but it still penalizes us far too often. »
The main thing for the group will therefore be, first of all, to find their feelings on the ball. Game principles and technique will come later, as will confidence. Enough to build a solid and competitive team to tackle these two essential meetings for the continued development of a discipline still lurking in the shadow of field hockey.