FIH Pro League 2023-24: Indian men, women lose to Belgium in European leg

Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams lost to host nation Belgium in the European leg of the FIH Pro League 2023-24 season in Antwerp on Thursday.

Harmanpreet Singh-led men’s team, who defeated Argentina in a shootout on Wednesday, lost 1-4 to Olympic champion Belgium.

In the early exchanges, it was Belgium which looked more dangerous; however, they came up against a well-organised Indian defensive unit, which absorbed the pressure well. Just after the halfway mark in the quarter, the Indian team started to go through the gears, pushing Belgium back into their half, with a couple of attacks from the right. With both teams unable to break the deadlock, the first quarter ended 0-0.

Both teams started the second quarter well, matching each other toe to toe in the early exchanges. India earned a penalty corner within the first three minutes of the quarter but were unable to find the back of the net as Harmanpreet’s shot was well-blocked by Belgium goalkeeper. However, with eight minutes remaining, Felix Denayer (22’) gave Belgium a 1-0 lead after he found the back of the net as he found himself in space inside the area and finished from close range.

Despite repeated attacks, India were unable to cover the deficit going into half-time.

India started the game aggressively after halftime, but the Belgium defence continued to hold down the fort. The cagey third quarter saw plenty of action on both ends, but it was Belgium which doubled their lead through Alexander Hendrickx (34’) after he successfully converted a penalty corner. At the end of the third quarter, Belgium led India by 2-0.

With 15 minutes left on the clock, India started showcasing urgency. But it was Belgium which extended their lead to 3-0 as Cedric Charlier (49’) scored a field goal. With five minutes remaining, Abhishek (55’) found the back of the net. Towards the end of the match, Belgium got a penalty stroke which was successfully converted by Alexander Hendrickx (60’). The match ended with Belgium winning 4-1.

Indian men’s team will look to do better than its bronze medal from Tokyo 2020 when it competes in Paris Olympics this year

India is placed third with 17 points from 10 games while Belgium is seventh with six points in six games in the men’s standings. The two teams meet in the reverse fixture on Saturday.

India 1-4 Belgium Highlights, FIH Pro League: Men in Blue suffer defeat, Abhishek scores consolation goal

Earlier in the day, Salima Tete-led women’s team went down 0-2 to the host.

The women’s team, then led by goalkeeper Savita Punia, failed to qualify for Paris Olympics after finishing fourth in the qualifiers in Ranchi in January and a month later, head coach Janneke Schopman resigned from her post.

India began the match with an aggressive approach and won an early penalty corner, but couldn’t capitalise on it. However, they continued to press Belgium, which initially struggled to keep possession and relied on counter-attacks, but India’s defence stood strong to deny them any chances of going in front. Also, the home side won a penalty corner towards the end of the first quarter, but it was saved by the Indian team’s goalkeeper Savita without much difficulty. Meanwhile, India made quite a few circle entries but were unable to find the back of the net as the opening quarter remained goalless.

In the second quarter, Belgium increased their pressure with rigorous passing and constant attacks. However, India absorbed the pressure well, shifting the tempo in their favour by maintaining possession and making quick passes, which allowed them to test Belgium’s defence a couple of times. Despite these efforts, both teams failed to break the deadlock, and the score remained 0-0 at halftime.

Belgium came out all guns blazing in the third quarter and that helped them in going in front as Alexia ‘T Serstevens (34’) and Louise Dewaet (36’) scored a field goal each in two minutes, thus giving the home side a 2-0 lead. In the meantime, India upped their ante to bounce back in the match and even won a penalty corner towards the end of the penultimate quarter, but failed to make the most of it.

In the fourth quarter, India made early advances and tested Belgium’s defence rigorously, but the hosts successfully defended their lead. Despite maintaining possession and making regular circle entries, India couldn’t find the back of the net, and the match ended 2-0 in favour of Belgium.

Harendra Singh is on his first assignment as the new head coach and this was a second straight loss for the women’s team after the 0-5 defeat against Argentina in its opening match.

In the women’s standings, India is sixth with eight points in 10 games while Belgium is seventh with six points in six games. Indian women also play the host in the reverse fixture on Saturday.


Belgium 4 (Denayer 22’; Hendrickx 34’, 60’; Charlier 49’) bt India 1 (Abhishek 55’)


Belgium 2 (T’ Serstevens 34’; Dewaet 36’) bt India 0

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