FIH Pro League Scouting Report: USWNT vs. Belgium

March 27, 2019, 4:58 p.m. (ET)

In anticipation of the U.S. Women's National Team's upcoming FIH Pro League match, here is a scouting report you’ll want to review before the starting whistle.

Game Day: Friday, March 29, 2019

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Location: Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster, Pa.

Live StreamDon't miss a second of the FIH Pro League action and watch the USWNT take on Belgium this Saturday! The FIH has signed a four-year media rights agreement with Bleacher Report Live for the territories of Canada and the United States. Bleacher Report Live is operated by Turner Sports, a division of WarnerMedia. The platform, which is Turner’s live sports streaming service, will be the primary destination for all fans to watch FIH Pro League matches.

FIH Pro League single games are available paid per view for $2.99 per match or $19.99 for the FIH Pro League 2019 Season Pass (all matches)Click here for the FIH Pro League live stream landing page.

Opponent: Belgium

FIH World Ranking: 13

Head to Head: It’s been four months since these two teams last met on USA turf battling the brittle cold and playing conditions. In that three-game test series in November, Belgium prevailed in two matches. In the first game the Red Panthers pressed early, eventually paying off with a 1-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter. USA was just as fierce offensively but ultimately could not capitalize on their chances like their counter parts falling 0-2. In the second match, tied 2-2 entering the final frame, USA pulled ahead late in the contest when Kathleen Sharkey scored off a rebound off Belgium's goalkeeper Elodie Picard’s pads, giving USA the 3-2 victory. In the final game, after being down 1-0 in the second half, Belgium responded with four unanswered goals to win the series by a final of 4-1.

Before their November match-up in the winter elements of Lancaster, Pa., it had been over six years since these two teams met in the 11th/12th place game of the London 2012 Olympic Games. In a similar meeting, USA struck first before Belgium pulled ahead for a 2-1 win.


Head to Head
(since 2013)


3 Previous Matches
 0 Draws
 
1 Won 2
4 Total Goals 8

What You Need to Know: At the time of writing, Belgium was the lowest ranked of all the teams competing in the inaugural edition of the FIH Pro League. However, do not let that fool you into thinking that all other nations will be looking at the Red Panthers as an easy opponent. Belgium has been on an impressive rise in recent years and, following the men’s stunning victory at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, the talented women’s team will be determined to show the world just how competitive they have become. A tenth place finish at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 contained some fine performances including a 6-3 thrashing of Japan as well as draws against eventual semifinalists Australia and Spain, although the meeting against the latter ended in an agonizing shootout defeat.

Ten members of the initial FIH Pro League squad selected by Head Coach Niels Thijssen have surpassed the 100 international appearances marker, four of which have all played more than 200 times for the Red Panthers. Team captain Anouk Raes, Emilie Sinia, Barbara Nelen and Jill Boon – sister of Red Lions’ World Cup winning forward Tom Boon – having all represented their country more than 200 times. On their day, the European silver medalists from 2017 will be a match for anyone.

Recap of Belgium's Previous Game: No. 3 Australia came into their meeting against No. 13 Belgium confident about their chances of success, boosted by a previous notable 1-0 win against world champions The Netherlands. However, the Red Panthers had good reason to feel optimistic following their 1-0 triumph against the New Zealand Black Sticks in Auckland.

There was little to choose between the hosts and the European silver medalists in the opening quarter, with neither side able to create any clear-cut goal scoring opportunities. Australia attacker Grace Stewart had a half-chance from a tight angle but could not direct her shot on target, while Belgium were intelligent in their play, doing everything in their power to control the pace and tempo of the game in the hot playing conditions.

The match remained evenly balanced in the second quarter, with both teams equal across the board in terms of possession, circle entries and shots on goal. A clever deflection from Belgium’s Jill Boon was arguably the best chance of the period, her subtle touch changing the trajectory of the ball but not enough to catch out Hockeyoos goalkeeper Rachael Lynch. 

Speaking in his halftime broadcast interview, Red Panthers Head Coach Niels Thijssen indicated that he was not entirely satisfied with his team’s performance and was looking for improvement after the break. He got exactly what he wished for, with Belgium taking the game to the hosts and eventually being rewarded when they took the lead through a brilliantly executed penalty corner. A quick pass at the top of the circle allowed Michelle Struijk time and space to drill a low shot into the goal, putting the Red Panthers into 1-0 lead.

 

Belgium doubled their advantage early in the fourth quarter thanks to a backhand strike from Louise Versavel, who found the gap between the post and replacement Hockeyroos goalkeeper Ashlee Wells. Versavel’s strike proved to be crucial, with Australia putting a goal back through Brooke Peris but being unable to find an equalizer thanks to numerous exceptional saves from brilliant Belgian goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe.

 

Belgium's Roster: Click Here