With one month to go until the start of the men’s Sahara Hockey Champions Trophy in Chennai, India, FIH has launched the tournament website for the event.
The website, http://saharachampionstrophy.worldhockey.org, will be the best way to keep informed before and during the tournament, with news updates, team information, live commentary, match summaries and the latest photos.
This is the second time that Chennai (Madras) will host the Champions Trophy, with the previous edition won by the Netherlands in 1996. The tournament will run from Saturday, 10 December, until Sunday, 18 December.
This year’s event is shaping as one of the closest in recent years. With the Champions Trophy the biggest prize in 2005 and with valuable rankings points on offer, each nation will be looking to consolidate their position and exert their authority on their closest rivals.
Defending Champions Trophy winners Spain will be difficult to topple. After winning their first major title in Lahore, Pakistan, 12 months ago, they have built a strong record this year and continued their impressive development under coach Maurits Hendriks.
A European championship has been added to the trophy cabinet in 2005, and with an array of dynamic players, Spain are looking ominous to make it back-to-back titles in Chennai.
Apart from Spain’s victory last year and Australia’s in 1999, Netherlands and Germany have been the powerhouses of the Champions Trophy in recent history, winning eight of the last 10 tournaments.
Both are likely field a mix of experienced campaigners and talented youngsters, with the exposure of their next generation of players to international competition prior to the BDO Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany, one of the main objectives.
While neither team were able to stop Spain’s charge to the European Nations Cup, both have already qualified for next September’s World Cup (Germany as hosts), creating sufficient time between now and then for the less experienced members of their squad to settle into the international arena.
However both still possess the type of players capable of dominating international hockey and one, if not both, should be in contention for the title at tournament’s end.
Olympic champions Australia will field a strong line-up boasting 13 goal medallists from last year’s Athens Olympic Games. They return to the Champions Trophy field in 2005 after missing last year’s event following security advice issued by the Australian government.
Before Australia arrives, they must negotiate a continental Olympic qualifying event to secure their ticket to Monchengladbach.
An Oceania Cup series against New Zealand and Fiji beckons next week, with an automatic World Cup spot guaranteed to the winner of the tournament. Australia’s abundance of match winners across the pitch, including reigning WorldHockey Player of the Year, Jamie Dwyer, should ensure their smooth passage.
After winning the Rabo Trophy at Amstelveen in August, Pakistan showed signs they will be a legitimate threat in major tournaments.
However their hopes might rest on the outcome of the FIH Judicial Commission’s hearing into an alleged act of misconduct against captain Muhammad Saqlain.
The Judicial Commission will meet in Lausanne on Sunday, 27 November, after Saqlain was involved in an incident in the Hamburg Masters tournament in August. The suspension of Saqlain would deny Pakistan the use of a vital ingredient in their team make-up.
India is the tournament’s wildcard and their response to the pressure placed on them by the home media and fans is likely to determine their level of success. They had a mediocre tour of Europe earlier this year and will need to improve to match the other teams.
India have never won the Champions Trophy and surprisingly, have only ventured to the podium once in 10 attempts.
Although they have showed glimpses of their potential at various tournaments around the world in past years, they have been unable to compile the catalogue of consistent, high-quality performances needed for success on the elite stage.
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