FIH World Cup: Analysis of the competing teams
With flamboyant style and technical ability, the team can beat any team in the world on its day. They showed that during their 2-1 victory over reigning Olympic and world champions Belgium in November. The team, however, has struggled in the World Cup, playing under the guidance of former Argentina goalkeeper Mariano Ronconi.
Here’s an analysis of the participating teams in the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup, starting on Friday. Argentina (world ranking: seven) Rio Olympic champions Argentina are the top team in the American continent, having won the continental title on 14 occasions. With flamboyant style and technical ability, the team can beat any team in the world on its day. They showed that during their 2-1 victory over reigning Olympic and world champions Belgium in November. The team, however, has struggled in the World Cup, playing under the guidance of former Argentina goalkeeper Mariano Ronconi.
The Argentine team has so far reached the semi-finals only once in 13 matches, in 2014 and then the team finished third. Last time the team topped their group but lost 2-3 to England in the quarter-finals. The team will miss star penalty corner specialist Gonzalo Pilat, who joined the Germany team after playing more than 100 matches for Argentina. Agustin Mazzilli, Lucas Villa and team captain Matias Ray will also be under watch. Australia (world ranking: 1) Australia has had one of the most consistent performances in men’s hockey in the last 30 years. During this time the team remained in the top four in the FIH World Rankings. He won all the tournaments including Olympics, World Cup, FIH Hockey Pro League and Oceana Cup titles.
The team, under the guidance of former striker Colin Batch, has not played many matches since the shoot-out defeat to Belgium in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The team, however, defeated India 7-0 in the final of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in August last year to win the title for the seventh time. Since then he has played just five matches against India in the home series in November–December which the team won 4–1. Australia haven’t started their Pro-League campaign this season but are known for their fast-paced hockey and the team plays attacking hockey with strong defence.
There is no doubt the Australian will be eyeing a record-equalling fourth world title. Captain Eddie Ockenden, penalty corner specialist Blake Govers, defender Jake Harvey and midfielder Aren Zalewski are key players in the team, which finished third in the previous tournament. Belgium (world ranking: 2) Belgium has traveled to the top position among European countries in the last two decades. In the recent past, the team has won all major titles including the World Cup (2018), Olympics (2021), European Championship (2019) and FIH Hockey Pro League (2020-21). The defending champions are once again favorites to win the title along with Australia and the Netherlands.
The team, playing under the guidance of Michael van den Heuvel of the Netherlands, has strength and depth in the department and has some of the best players in the world. The team has relied on experienced players. More than half of the team’s players are over 30 years old and more than half of the team’s players have played close to or more than 200 matches. The team has two world-class goalkeepers in Vincent Vanasch and Loic van Doren, trailing India’s PR Sreejesh in the race for the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year award, while Arthur van Doren, Victor Vagnez, Felix Denayer, Florent van Aubel, John-John The team has exceptional players in the form of Dohmen, Alexander Hendrickx, Arthur de Slover and Tom Boon.
Germany (world ranking: four) Germany has a vibrant history in international hockey, with four Olympic gold medals, two World Cups and eight European titles. The team has been doing consistently well in the Olympics and the World Cup and would like to replicate that in Odisha. After losing to India in the bronze medal play-off at the Tokyo Olympics, Germany got a new coach in Andre Henning. The team has done a long preparation of more than eight months by winning 13 out of 18 matches last year.
Forward Niklas Wellen, who is in the running for best player of the year, and goalkeeper Alexander Stadler, who is in the running for best goalkeeper, are key players in the German team. Other star players are forward Christopher Ruhr and captain Mats Grambusch. Star penalty corner specialist Gonzalo Pilat helped Argentina clinch Olympic gold in 2016 and provides the team with balance. India (world ranking: six) India has won the World Cup once in 1975 and since then has failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
He won bronze in the first tournament in 1971 and silver in 1973. In the last tournament in Bhubaneswar, the team topped the group stage but lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. The team did not progress beyond the group stage from 1978 to 2014. After falling behind on the world stage, including failing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, India has once again emerged as a strong contender. The Tokyo Olympic team won a historic bronze medal after finishing third in the 2021-22 season of the FIH Hockey Pro League.
India’s stature has increased ever since Graham Reid took over as the head coach. He has been able to build India into a skilful and disciplined team that his opponents respect and fear. After losing 0–7 to Australia in the final of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, India did better against this team on home soil but still lost the series 1–4. Captain and FIH Player of the Year Harmanpreet Singh is a superb defender and one of the best drag-flickers in the world.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, veteran midfielders Manpreet Singh and Hardik Singh and striker Mandeep Singh are capable of turning the tide of the game. Defender and former captain Amit Rohidas and forward Akashdeep Singh will also be under watch. Netherlands: (World ranking: three) Under head coach Jeroen Delmy, who won two Olympic gold medals as a player, the Netherlands team has been able to bring consistency in performance. Delmi has strengthened the team after taking over in the second half of 2021. The team won the title in the 2021-22 season of FIH Hockey Pro League by winning 12 out of their 16 matches.
After facing defeat in the last two FIH Men’s World Cup finals, the team will be eyeing the title this time. The team will try to match Pakistan by winning the fourth world title. Captain Thierry Brinkmann, striker Koen Bijne, penalty corner specialist Jip Jansen and goalkeeper Pirmin Blak are among the players to watch. England (world ranking: fifth) England have only played in a World Cup final once, in 1986, losing 1–2 to Australia in front of a home crowd in London. They finished fourth in the last three tournaments and will be hoping to win their first title under new head coach Paul Revington.
They have come into this World Cup with a young team out of which 10 players have no experience of playing at this level. Zach Wallace, Condon David, Martin Harry and Roper Phil are among the England players to watch. Spain (world ranking: eight) Spain hosted the first World Cup in 1971. The team has played the World Cup final twice but failed to win the title. The team will be in Pool D which also features India, England and Wales. The recent victories against teams like India and New Zealand would have boosted the morale of the team.
Playing under the guidance of coach Max Caldas, the team will have high hopes from Alvaro Iglesias, Ricardo Sanchez and Enrique Gonzalez. Korea (world ranking: 10) After failing to qualify for the previous tournament, Korea returned to the World Cup with a resounding victory in the Asia Cup, where they beat Malaysia in the final. The team finished runners-up in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in November, losing to Malaysia.
The evergreen 39-year-old captain Namyoung Lee is the key player of the team. New Zealand (world ranking: nine) New Zealand are all set to compete in their 11th World Cup. The team has never finished better than seventh in the World Cup and all that could change this time around. The team has some really world class players. The team will have high hopes from defender Blair Tarrant, experienced striker Simon Child, penalty corner specialist Kane Russell, midfielder Nick Ross and 19-year-old Charlie Morrison.
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