The Red Lions do not forget the non-selected for the Olympics: “Ghislain will play one day; Cosyns is the smartest”

Forty-eight hours after the announcement of the Olympic selection, the Red Lions met with the press at their Antwerp center of excellence. More relaxed, they entered a new phase of preparation before leaving for Paris on July 14. This time, the 16 Olympians will be able to reduce the final margins of progression. At 36 years old, John-John Dohmen, who will experience his fifth Olympics, first thought of those who did not survive this final selection. “Cédric (Charlier) has brought so much to the group. He has a crazy mental strength. If he is called upon to step out of his reserve role, he will be excellent. It was tough not to see his name in the 16 because he belongs to my generation. Max (Van Oost) has enormous talent. He showed it in the Pro League. During the World Cup, he was also a reserve, but he played in the quarters, the semis, and the final. He has the Olympic level. That’s clear.”

The most capped player in the world wanted to encourage the two absentees: William Ghislain and Tanguy Cosyns. “Will will play in the Olympics one day. He has the talent and the instinct. On the field, he is unpredictable which is his strength and also his weakness. As for Tanguy, he is the smartest player I know. He has a sense of the game. It’s a shame he’s been forgotten.”

With five Olympics under his belt, the Orée midfielder knows the work that awaits the team in the last month. He tries to compare the situation with the Red Lions before the Tokyo Olympics. “We are more or less at the same level as in 2021,” analyzes John-John Dohmen. “Before Tokyo, we had a pretty average game at the Euro. During last month’s Pro League, our core rotated a lot which makes the comparison complicated. We have at least one advantage over other nations. We know what we need to do to reach our peak in a month and a half. We’ve done it before. Our confidence is high.”

Three years ago, the Red Lions were the clear favorites for the title. This edition is more open because the competition has benefited from the level of the Red Lions since 2016. “If the Olympics had taken place in 2020, I think we would have won the gold medal with a bigger lead over the others. In 2021, our opponents had reduced some of the gap. In 2024, the Netherlands is much stronger as is Great Britain. Germany too. India and Australia may be a little weaker. Argentina remains stronger than the team that played in Tokyo.”

However, the Belgians will go to Paris with the intention of bringing back another gold medal. Or any medal at all. “Some players of this generation are playing their last tournament. Beyond the result, I would like the Red Lions to show their true face and character again. I have confidence because I am convinced that Belgium has the best core of 25 players, a bit like Australia in the past.” This is what made the selection so complicated…