The champion coach, who took a 16-month break after the Tokyo Games, has returned to the Belgian side as a consultant to assist Dutchman Michel van den Heuvel, who is the chief coach. In the FIH Hockey World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, the 54-year-old will guide the team against his home country New Zealand.
Incidentally, McLeod coached the Black Sticks at two Olympics – 2008 and 2012. This could work to Belgium’s advantage as they eye their second consecutive World Cup. A well-rested Belgium will have a tricky task on hand with New Zealand having proved that they are no pushovers. If their battling comeback against India in the crossover is any indication, the Kiwis will go into the contest with the momentum in their favour.
They also have a slice of history backing them, having won both their previous World Cup encounters. The two teams met at the 1973 and 2002 editions of the World Cup and New Zealand prevailed 3-1 and 4-3 respectively.
AUSSIES START FAVOURITES
Former champions Australia will start favourites against a resurgent Spain. The Max Caldas-coached side, which got past Malaysia through the shootout on Sunday, will look to punch above their weight. It is not an improbable task, considering they staged a remarkable comeback against Malaysia, scoring two goals in a minute to take the contest into shootout. The contest will boil down to Australia’s flair and experience versus Spain’s youth and aggression.