Pakistan (3rd in pool D) play Belgium (2nd in pool C) on Tuesday in the cross over for a quarter final place.
The two sides have reached this stage in contrasting fashion. While Green-Shirts sneaked in with only one point from the three pool games, edging out Malaysia on goal difference. The Red Lions were unlucky not to qualify for the quarter finals directly, missing out only on goal difference. Belgium had won two and drew one with India, who topped the pool because of the better goal difference.
Surprisingly, Pakistan and Belgium have played against each other just twice in the World Cup with Pakistan winning 2-0 in 1973 and 3-2 in 2002.
Currently ranked three in the world, till only a few years back, Belgium were a non-entity on the international hockey circuit and quite a few times even failed to qualify for the World Cup and the Olympics.
Their mercurial rise in a very short time is simply amazing.
Belgium’s best positions at the top international title events have arrived in recent times. Olympics: 2nd in 2016, World Cup: 5th in 2014, Euro Hockey Nations Championships: 2nd in 2013 & 2017, Junior World Cup: 2nd in 2016.
At Bhubaneswar, the Red Lions are a serious medal contender and remain so after the pool stage.
Pakistan had started well, going down 0-1 to Germany. Next, they had a hard fought 1-1 draw with Malaysia. In the last pool game, they were outplayed by the Dutch in a 1-5 defeat. In the second half, most of the time, Pakistan appeared at a loss for ideas.
All this means, Pakistan will have to play out of their skin to make it to the quarter finals; needing to overcome an in form side ranked 10 places above them.