The Red Panthers of Belgium will be competing at the Hockey Women's World Cup in London 2018 as they grabbed the final qualification spot for the blue riband event.
It has been a long period of suspense for the Belgium team as they have had to wait for all the continental championships to be played out to discover whether their eighth place finish at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Brussels was enough to earn them a place at the World Cup.
In the end, it was Malaysia's defeat at the hands of Japan in the Women's Asia Cup, which is currently being played in Gifu, Japan, that sealed their qualification. Belgium's place was confirmed when the host nation defeated Malaysia in the quarter-finals of the Women's Asia Cup, dispelling Malaysia's hopes of winning the continental championship and thus qualifying for the Hockey Women's World Cup London 2018.
Under FIH regulations, the team that wins its continental qualifier automatically qualifies for the World Cup. However, all four semi-finalists – Japan, Korea, China and India – in the Women's Asia Cup have already qualified via the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Brussels and Johannesburg earlier this year.
This means a World Cup qualification spot opened up for Belgium, who were next in line to claim their place in London.
Now Belgium, who are ranked 14th in the world, can also look forward to playing in the blue riband competition and they will be hoping to improve on their 2014 performance, where they lost to England on shoot-out to finish in 12th position. It will be Belgium's sixth appearance at the Women's Hockey World Cup, with their bronze medal in 1978 place at the 1994 event in Madrid being their best finishing position to date.
The Women's Hockey World Cup will be held at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England from 21 July to 5 August 2018.