Belgium release eye-catching squads for EuroHockey Championships

©: World Sport Pics

EuroHockey Championship hosts Belgium have named a pair of eye-catching squads for the upcoming competition in Antwerp which starts on August 16th at the new Wilrijkse Plein venue.

For the Red Panthers, the new face is Abigail Raye who made her debut for Belgium on Wednesday, August 7.

The English-born player moved to Canada in 2005 aged 14 and attained her citizenship in time to line out for the country while still a teenager, going on to represent the maple leafs 155 times, competing in the Commonwealth Games and winning bronze at the Pan-Am Games.

The 28-year-old has not played with Canada since 2016, completing three years out of the international game to switch her allegiance to the country where she has played her club hockey with Wellington, La Gantoise and, most recently, Dragons.

She offers a powerful presence in the side for whom Anouk Raes recently retired. For coach Niels Thijssen, he is hoping his side can challenge for the medals once again having reached the final two years ago.

"We are the sixth European nation and never a 6th ranked country won the Euro"," said Thijssen.

"Of course we want to win every game but winning the gold medal does not seem like a realistic goal. It's a dream but our goal is, above all, to be the best possible on the day of the match.”

On the men’s side, coach Shane McLeod’s big decision saw him rest Sebastien Dockier, a tournament regular in recent years while Tanguy Cosyns, Max Plennevaux, Augustin Meurmans and Nicolas Poncelet were the other panelists to miss out.

"This decision was not easy," McLeod said. "But we have a talented group with healthy competition. This is in no way a penalty for players not involved.

“A victory at the Euros will allow us to qualify immediately for the Tokyo Games.We do not want to miss this opportunity to fully master our preparations for the Olympics. "

His panel features 2018/19 EHL winners Vincent Vanasch, Gauthier Boccard, Simon Gougnard and John-John Dohmen who lined out for Waterloo Ducks last term.

Beerschot’s Arthur de Sloover, Herakles Nicolas de Kerpel, HC Bloemendaal’s Arthur van Doren and Royal Leopold’s Tom Boon are other players from the team who will play in next season’s EHL.