Analysis of teams participating in the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup, beginning here from Friday. Argentina (world rank: 7) Rio Olympics champions Argentina are Pan American hockey’s falg bearer, having won the continental title on 14 occasions. With a swashbuckling style and incredible technical ability, Los Leones can beat any team in the world on their day, something they showed in their 2-1 victory over reigning Olympic and world champions Belgium in November.
But the team coached by former Argentina goalkeeper Mariano Ronconi has struggled in the World Cups, having reached the semifinals only once in their 13 appearances so far — in the 2014 edition when they had finished third.
Last time, they topped their group but lost to England 3-2 in the quarterfinals.
The loss of star penalty corner specialist Gonzalo Peillat to the German team after playing more than 100 matches for Argentina will be felt.
Agustin Mazzilli, Lucas Vila and team captain Matias Rey — named Player of the Tournament as his team swept to victory in the 2022 Pan American Cup in Santiago, Chile to seal their World Cup — are among the players to watch out for despite being well into their 30s.
Australia (world no: 1)The Kookaburras are the most consistent men’s hockey team in the last 30 years, having remained in the top four of the FIH World Rankings for the duration of that period. They have won every prize available, including the Olympic, World Cup, FIH Hockey Pro League and Oceania Cup titles.
The team coached by former striker Colin Batch has not played too many matches after a shoot-out loss to Belgium in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. They, however, claimed a sensational seventh Commonwealth Games title, thrashing India 7-0 in the final in Birmingham in August last year.
Since then they have played just five matches against India, winning 4-1 in a high-scoring home series in November-December.
Unlike many other teams in this World Cup, Australia have not started their Pro-League campaign this season but known for fast-paced, attacking hockey with compact defence, there is no doubt that the Australians will go in search of a record-equalling fourth world title.
They had lost to the eventual runners-up Netherlands in the semifinals in the shootout and beat England in the third-place match.
Captain Eddie Ockenden, penalty corner specialist Blake Govers, defender Jake Harvie, midfielder Aran Zalewski will be among the players to watch our for the brilliant Kookaburras.
Belgium (world no: 2) Belgium’s rise from among European also-rans to the summit of global hockey has been one of the standout stories of the past two decades. In the past last years the Red Lions have won every major title on offer, including the World Cup (2018), Olympic Games (2021), European Championship (2019) and FIH Hockey Pro League (2020-21).
They are again the favourites to win the title, along with Australia and the Netherlands, and defend the title they won at the Kalinga Stadium four years ago.
The team coached by Dutchman Michel van den Heuvel has strength and depth in every department and contains some of the world’s finest players, proven winners who have claimed the biggest titles on the greatest of stages.
They, however, have relied on the tried and tested players with more than half of the squad above 30 years and over (or nearly) 200 matches to their kitty.
In Vincent Vanasch — who lost to India’s PR Sreejesh in the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award — and Loic Van Doren, they have two world class goalkeepers, while Arthur Van Doren, Victor Wegnez, Felix Denayer, Florent Van Aubel, John-John Dohmen, Alexander Hendrickx, Arthur de Sloover and Tom Boon – the latter two both shortlisted for the FIH Hockey Stars Player of the Year Award for 2022 – are all extraordinary talents.
Germany (world no: 4)With four Olympic gold medals, two World Cups and eight European titles, Germany have an enviable history in international hockey. Tactically astute and technically superb, Die Honamas — as the German national team is known as — have a habit of hitting form at Olympic Games and World Cups, something they will be hoping to repeat here in Odisha.
After losing to India in the bronze-medal play-off in the Tokyo Olympics, Germany got a new coach in Andre Henning. The team had a long preparation of more than eight months, winning 13 out of 18 matches in the past year and will look to replicate the same performance in the World Cup.
Forward Niklas Wellen — who was one of the nominations for the FIH Best Player award — and goalkeeper Alexander Stadler, who was in the running for Best Goalkeeper award, would be among the key players in this German team.
Another forward Christopher Rühr and captain Mats Grambusch would be the other star players. The addition of star penalty corner specialist Gonzalo Peillat -– the man who fired Argentina to Olympic gold at Rio 2016 — would only lend potency to the side.
India (world no:6) India won the World Cup once in 1975, and since then have failed to qualify for the semifinals. They won a bronze in the inaugural edition in 1971, clinched a silver in 1973. In the previous edition, also held in Bhubaneswar, they did go past the group round but failed to win a quarterfinal game against the Netherlands.
From 1978 to 2014 they could not go past the group stage.
After years of sliding down in the world game, culminating to the failure to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games — a competition they had won a record eight times — India are back at the top table.
A bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games was a landmark moment for the team, following it up with a third-place finish in the 2021-22 edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League.
Since Graham Reid took over the head coach’s position, India’s stature has grown up. He has been able to get the best out of the players, injecting a tactical discipline to their trademark skilful, fluid playing style, making them a team that is respected and feared in equal measure.
After losing to Australia 0-7 in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games final, India had improved a lot in the away series against the Kookaburras. India lost 1-4 in the high-scoring series but contested on equal footing in three matches and notched up a rare win against their formidable opponents.
Captain and FIH Player of the Year Harmanpreet Singh, a fabulous defender and one of the best drag flickers in the game, will be the key player while goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, midfield ace Manpreet Singh and Hardik Singh, and striker Mandeep Singh are all capable of bringing about game-changing moments.
Defender Amit Rohidas, who has captained the team in the past and also takes penalty corners, and forward Akashdeep Singh will be among the other players to watch out for.
Netherlands (world no:3) Under head coach Jeroen Delmee, the legendary Dutch defender who as a player won two Olympic gold medals, the Netherlands have found consistency in their performance. Since taking charge in the latter part of 2021, Delmee has injected a significant amount of fresh talent into the Oranje squad.
The young guns rose to the challenge in style, winning 12 of their 16 matches in the 2021-22 edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League to win the title for the first time.
Having suffered painful defeats in the last two FIH Men’s World Cup finals, the Netherlands will be aiming to make it third time lucky this time around and win a fourth world crown, a feat only Pakistan have managed to achieve.
Captain Thierry Brinkman, striker Koen Bijen, penalty corner ace Jip Janssen and goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak will be among the players to watch out for.
England (world no:5) England played in World Cup final only once, in 1986, when they lost to Australia 1-2 in front of their home crowd in London. They finished fourth in the last three editions and the current team under new head coach Paul Revington will be hoping to win its maiden title.
But they have come in this World Cup with a young squad, with 10 players having zero experience at this level.
Zach Wallace, Condon David, Martin Harry and Roper Phill will be among the England players to watch out for.
Spain (world no: 8)Spain hosted the first-ever World Cup in 1971. So far in hockey’s most prestigious event, Spain have played in the finals twice, in 1971 and 1998, but failed to win the crown.
They will be the dark horse in Pool D which also has India, England and wales. Recent wins against teams like India and New Zealand will surely make them believe that a young squad can beat the best teams in the world.
Under coach Max Caldas, Spain will expect Alvaro Iglesias, Ricardo Sanchez and Enrique Gonzalez to play the playmaking role.
Korea (world no: 10)After failing to qualify for the 2018 edition, Korea return to World Cup action courtesy of a superb victory at the Asia Cup, where they defeated Malaysia in the final.
The team has been involved in two high-profile competitions in recent months, finishing runners-up to Malaysia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in November.
Evergreen 39-year-old captain Namyong Lee will be among the key players.
New Zealand (world no:9) New Zealand are all set to compete in their 11th World Cup, with the Odisha event being their seventh in succession. They are yet to finish higher than seventh, a placing they have achieved on four separate occasions, but that could all change this time around.
The Black Sticks are always a force to reckon with, being blessed with some genuinely world-class players in their ranks.
Defender Blair Tarrant, veteran striker Simon Child, penalty corner expert Kane Russell, defensive midfielder Nick Ross and 19-year-old debutant Charlie Morrison could be the players to watch out for.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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