How did Belgium lose the game against Spain?

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Last week the new Pro league started, with Belgium, the world champions, were playing against Spain, in Valencia.

I don’t want to make a longer introduction, but if you are interested in knowing more background about the game, read my friend’s Andreu’s article, with a perfect description of the game.

Andreu Enrich: Spain 2 – Belgium 2 (2-0 SO)

Getting to our point: Belgium was winning 2-0 with 2 minutes and a half to go, and from that moment on, they did everything wrong. They got scored once, and, being, 2-1 up, they were able to get the ball to a corner, with 1 minute and a half to go. We will start our analysis here: We won’t be analyzing how the Spanish scored exactly, because that’s not the point, the point is, how, from having the ball in a corner, with one minute and a half to go, the Spanish were able to generate one more attack. Then if they score or not, its history, the important is understanding how they got that chance.

As coaches, we have all experienced for sure one situation like this, when we are winning and time is running out.

Probably the first time its all a big chaos… people screaming and going crazy. At least it was for me, until I realized the importance of working on these situations in training: How to play when you are winning, or how to play when you are losing.

How to play when you are winning

When you are winning, and the game is about to finish, there is one big priority:

  • Try to keep the ball as far from your goal as possible

The Belgians got this right, after a big run by De Kerpel, and a good pass to Tom Boon, they were able to get the ball to the corner.

By the way, as the FIH won’t allow the use of any video, I will present my analysis with screenshots. Thanks FIH!

Free hit in, Belgian ball, great zone of the field, the furthest away from their goal as possible. 1 minute 30 left. All good.

Once you have possession, one or maybe two players will get involved with the ball, all the rest need to be thinking

What happens if we lose the ball?

This is what we call counter control, and in this case is the difference between wining or losing a game. The objective, should be, to have our team ready to stop a possible counter attack in case we lose the ball.

The idea of the team should be to put pressure on the ball, so the counter attack can’t even be generated. In order to do this, it’s not only about putting people behind the ball, but also all around, since out main objective will be to

keep the ball in a small place

We have 5 Belgian player on the screen, it’s a good number, but their positions right now aren’t good enough. They have 4 players in the same line, and there is a big space for the Spanish to play horizontally and exit the small space.

The Belgians still have the ball, but at this point of the game it’s not relevant: They all know they won’t be attacking, its just about keeping it in that space.

In this picture we can see Victor Wegnez (N 26) in a good position, cutting the diagonal, we are just missing one player in the green zone to cut that space.

Antoine Kina (N 24) moved to a much better position, putting pressure sideways to cut the horizontal line that was open before.

At this point, they have lost the ball, and as we can see, the players are far too close to the ball, making it easier to get eliminated by a quick restart.

First big mistake: The Spanish are already looking up for the next action while the Belgians are complaining to the umpire.

So, with everything we said before, players being to close to the ball, plus, not being ready to defend, Sergi Enrique self starts the game living 3 players behind.

At this point, the counter is officially started: A Spanish player is able to run forward with no pressure.

Wegnez modify his position, trying to prevent the ball going forward, but opening the diagonal line. The main thing was keeping the ball in a small space, so the priority shouldn’t be only to prevent the from going forward, but, also (and in my opinion more important) not letting them win the inside.

I like this screenshot because you can see clearly the eye contact between Sergi Enrique and Quique Gonzalez: They both know where the space is and they are already thinking about the next action.

We say that a great pass is not only about being technically good, but also, tactically. This pass is perfect, its a solution, so now Quique Gonzalez gets the ball winning the inside, leaving more than half of the Belgian team outside the play. And now its just about attacking the empty space.

Xavi Lleonart Appears running on the opposite side that by now is a free highway.

So, from having the ball in possession in a perfect place, 15 second later the best player of the rival team ends up entering your 25 with space.

We will finish our analysis here, since whatever happens later is not the point.

It’s not about if they score or if they didn’t, its about the chances of getting scored from these situations.

The “nice” thing of knowing that it ended up in a goal, is that it is the reason we are making this post. If there was no goal, probably nobody would be looking to see what failed.

That’s the good part of screwing up: it hurts, but it teaches us a lesson to become better in the future.

Javi Telechea
Field Hockey Coach
PAHF Trainer. FIH Level 4 Coach.
Football Coach Level 2.
CoachingHockey founder.