LAHORE - Pakistan hockey team will face Belgium challenge in the Men’s Hockey World Cup crossover today (Tuesday) for a quarterfinal place of the mega hockey event in India.

The match against Belgium will be an uphill task for former master of the game Pakistan, who were third in the pool D while Belgium finished second in the pool C. 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 (Belgium) 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.

Match starts at 4:15 PM

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.

Meanwhile, France and England sealed quarterfinals berth in the Hockey World Cup after defeating their respective opponents in the crossovers played on Monday in Bhubaneswar.  France’s fairytale run in the Hockey World Cup continued as they pipped China 1-0 here to qualify for the quarter-finals. Timothee Clement scored for Les Blues. In the quarter-final on Wednesday, they will take on defending champions Australia, who are in the midst of a record 16-match winning streak in the World Cup.

France, in the first quarter, showed a greater intent to attack than China. Their two shots on goals, nine circle entries, four penalty corners in this phase are proofs. But in their defence, China was obdurate. They scrambled, dived, struggled, got hit – one of their players was even stretchered off – but conceded no goals.

The best moment of the first quarter came around the 13th minute, when France made four back-to-back, albeit unsuccessful, penalty corners. It was, in fact, stretched to four because the first three corners – drag-flicked by French captain Victor Charlet repeatedly to the right – was blocked by the shins of an onrushing Jin Guo.

Poor Guo was on the ground, wincing, while he stopped Charlet’s third attempt and was stretchered off after Charlet’s fourth, which the goalkeeper saved, diving leftward. As Guo was being carried off the field, Charlet ran towards him and patted on his shoulder in a sweet second of sportsmanship.

Both teams came close to scoring a goal in the second quarter. Charles Masson made a brilliant run along the right flank and – instead of scooping the ball to Viktor Lockwood at goalmouth – made an unsuccessful attempt at scoring. For China, Wenhui at goalmouth, despite stretching, couldn’t connect a ball that was crossed from right.

France broke the deadlock in the 36th minute, when Timothee Clement deflected Maximilien Branicki’s drive from the edge of the circle into the net. Lockwood had sprinted superbly along the left flank to feed the ball to Branicki. France created more opportunities (including two penalty corners) in the final quarter but failed to add to their tally.

A dominant England sailed past New Zealand 2-0 in the first crossover match to book their place in the quarterfinals. England scored through Will Calnan’s (25th minute) field strike and penalty corner conversion by Luke Taylor (44th) to register the comfortable win. England will face Olympic champions Argentina in the first quarterfinal on Wednesday.

World No 7 England were by far the better side against New Zealand in the opening two quarters, creating more goal scoring chances than their ninth ranked opponents. England had the first scoring chance in the fifth when they earned their first penalty corner but they failed to utilise the opportunity. After a barren and eventless first quarter, England drew first blood in the 25th minute when Will Calnan deflected in a high ball from skipper Phil Roper from the left flank.

Two minutes later, a Liam Ansell strike from close range went just went inches off the target as England wasted a golden opportunity. The Black Sticks tried to forge a comeback towards the end of the second quarter and in the 28th minute a Nick Ross’ strike from top of the strike was padded away by England goalkeeper George Pinner. Seconds later, England were awarded a penalty corner but they failed to stop the push and wasted the chance to go into the breather a goal down.

England continued from they left after the change of ends and secured back-to-back penalty corners just after the resumption of play but wasted both the chances. The Black Sticks tried to bounce back but they could find the net after entering the England circle. England earned their fourth penalty corner just a minute away from the final quarter and Taylor scored after David Condon’s initial try was saved by New Zealand goalkeeper Richard Joyce.

New Zealand came close to reducing the margin in the 49th minute but Stephen Jenness’ shot from inside the box was easily parried away by England goalie Pinner. With two goals down, a desperate New Zealand took out their goalkeeper Joyce nine minutes from the final hooter for an extra player but the move backfired as England became the only team to earn two penalty corners without a goalkeeper but Cory Bennett put his body on the line and took a heavy knock to keep England at bay.  In the final minute of the match, New Zealand secured another penalty corner but Pinner made a smart save to keep a clean slate and keep intact England’s record of never finishing below eighth in the World Cup.