Belgium coach Shane McLeod says the team has lost its advantage for Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Belgium's men's hockey coach Shane McLeod has said that the playing field is now level again due to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

McLeod believes the decision to move the Games to 2021 because of COVID-19 has seen his side lose its advantage after they had been on a strong run of form.

The New Zealand coach had previously led the team to silver at Rio 2016, losing 4-2 in the final to Argentina, before clinching the World Cup in 2018.

Despite the drop in momentum, he insists that it's a time where the players can rise to the challenge.

Speaking to Reutershe said: "I was very happy with how we had been going.

"We bought ourselves eight weeks that other nations didn't have, so while we were working on individual aspects of our game, other countries were still needing to qualify.

"I think we had a bit of a head start and you saw that in the Pro League games we played earlier this year."

Belgium secured qualification for Tokyo 2020 after winning last year's EuroHockey Nations Championship in August, with most of the remaining contenders having to qualify in October and November.

"I'm a bit disappointed we weren't able to just keep on going, mainly because of the results we were achieving," McLeod added.

"Now we have to recreate that performance gap, but it will be a fresh challenge.

"Just trying to figure out how we do this, what is going to be the best possible outcome for us, has been quite a driving factor.

"We've spent a lot of time working out how we best prepare for the Olympics in these current circumstances and a lot more detailed conversations with our sports science colleagues.

"Normally we have a formula that we reproduce, maybe fine-tune a little, but this is really different and now we are ad-libbing in areas where we've never been before but seeing some positive outcomes.

"All the nations have pressed the reset button now and I have to start from scratch again, but I think we are going to be okay."

Before its premature stoppage, Belgium were top of the International Hockey Federation League Pro League after six matches, in a competition involving nine of the world's best hockey nations, extended over a two-year period.

McLeod, who has worked in Belgian hockey for two decades, was intending to take a year'a sabbatical after the Games this year, before the postponement due to COVID-19.

He will now delay that to 2021 to stay with the team during the Olympic period.