The last FIH Hockey Pro League matches of 2021 are set to take place on Friday 26 and Sunday 28 November and judging from previous encounters between the two competing teams, they will certainly be well worth tuning in for.
The Netherlands men, the current European champions, will welcome Low Countries rivals Belgium to the Wagener Stadium, with the revamped Oranje team looking to make a positive start to their post Tokyo 2020 journey with new head coach Jeroen Delmee, taking on the reigning Olympic, World and FIH Hockey Pro League title holders.
Delmee, a double Olympic champion with the Netherlands in a playing career that saw him make over 400 international appearances, has a squad full of youthful promise, one that is clearly planning towards the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and beyond. Talents such as Jorrit Croon, 23, and Thierry Brinkman, 26, are now seen as senior figures amongst the 24 players they had registered for the competition at the time of writing.
Brinkman and goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak are the only two players with over 100 caps to their name, which is greatly contrasted by the frankly staggering levels of experience possessed by the Red Lions. With most of the team that won Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020 remaining together, their Pro League squad list contains sixteen players who are caps centurions. Six of those have over 200 caps with three more than 300, while the extraordinary, seemingly ageless John-John Dohmen has well over 400 international appearances to his name.
Even though the collective international experience of Dohmen (418 caps), captain Felix Denayer (344), and Cedric Charlier (344) is significantly greater than the entire Dutch contingent combined (891), it will matter little when the two teams take to the field. Meetings between these two great rivals are always packed full of drama, with their FIH Hockey Pro League encounters being particularly memorable. In May of this year, the Netherlands powered to a crushing 4-0 away victory over Belgium in Antwerp, while their meeting last November was a thrilling 4-4 draw, with Belgium stealing the bonus point in the shoot-out. While we cannot predict what will happen, it is understandable that expectations will run high in the build-up.
The matches were originally set to be staged in Rotterdam but were switched to the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen due to enhanced covid restrictions in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, this means that no fans will be present in the arena.