‘Nothing to worry about’

A few days later, captain Thierry Brinkmann reappeared in orange at the training ground in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday afternoon. The 27-year-old attacker, who was not fully fit, ran a replacement plan.

‘You don’t have to worry,’ Brinkmann assures us directly from the Kalinga stadium. His first words are characteristic. There is no reason to panic. But what happened to the captain? There is no very clear answer. ‘Not much happened’, he says, looking back on his absence. ‘I played an alternative gig at the hotel. Be as fresh as possible especially for the quarter finals. I had some pains, but now I’m back. It helped. I’m fresh and ready to go again.’

Just before the quarter-finals at 2.30pm on Wednesday, that’s good news. Alexander Hendricks had to leave the Belgian camp in a match announced a day earlier. The Pinnock player injured his knee in the group stages. So Brinkmann will be back in full force and will line up with the Orange against South Korea, the tournament’s biggest surprise. He himself wonders about the opponent. He watched a cross between Argentina and the Koreans from his hotel room. After the shoot-outs I saw how Argentina were beaten after a 5-5 final score in regular time. Everyone thought Argentina would win. Us too. Especially the time 5-3 ten minutes ago. Another strange result. It shows that anything can happen in this match.

Thierry Brinkmann during warm-up training. Photo: William Vernes

The unknown makes it difficult

Brinkman and his teammates quickly dipped into national coach Jeron Delmy’s textbooks. Because South Koreans are as unknown as Argentinians. ‘That’s exactly what makes it difficult,’ says Brinkman. ‘It’s unpredictable. They scored five runs against Argentina so they must be doing something right. But I don’t know any player in the team. Usually you can always name a few. Now you are playing against a team full of strangers. That too in the quarter-finals.’

They form four corners out of seven possibilities. Then you can call them a good penalty corner. Thierry Brinkmann on South Korea

Would he – with that knowledge – have played against Argentina? ‘Oh, that would have been nice too. We should prepare well. Koreans make four corners out of seven possibilities. Then you can call them a good penalty corner. So we have to take care of it. Argentina won for us, but the same goes for Korea. But then we should be fine.’

Argentina’s early exit is not the first surprise. Hosts India also did not escape the crossover (against New Zealand). That’s what the captain is talking about. ‘It’s a huge shame. This is a huge setback for the country. A cheat. It wouldn’t be fun if the host nation got kicked out so early. I was secretly looking forward to the quarter-final between India and Belgium.’

Belgium are already certain of the semi-finals

The southern neighbors now have to compete against New Zealand and will qualify for a place in the last four with a 2-0 win over New Zealand on Tuesday. A win against South Korea will see the Orange meet the reigning world champions. What fascinates me most about Asians? ‘That number is 25’, he promptly replies. That is Zhangyun Zhang. A defender with a razor-sharp penalty corner.

But is Zhang as good as his orange colleague with the same shirt number? ‘Ha, let’s see. I’m not going to get ahead of things. We are sharp and focused. And, I deserve it.’

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