Eight captains dreaming of HHWL glory
Eight captains dreaming of HHWL glory
(Photo: FIH / TABREZAHMAD)

8 teams, 24 matches, 144 players, 1,680 minutes of captivating Hockey… and one nation walking off with the trophy. The final of the inaugural Men’s Hockey World League kicks off this Friday in New Delhi, India. “We look forward to seeing these international superstars battling in their last major competition before the summer’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup”, says FIH Representative Alberto Budeisky.

Thousands of fans are expected to attend the matches in the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, with a global audience of millions following the action on television or via the live streaming provided on the FIH YouTube channel.    

Pool A features Olympic and European champions Germany, New Zealand, England and host nation India while in Pool B, Olympic silver medallists, the Netherlands, reigning world champions Australia, Belgium and Argentina will battle it out. The 12 pool matches will be played on Friday, Saturday and Monday with the four quarter finals being held on Wednesday. “We know that the quarter final is the most important game in this competition but at the moment we are really focussed on our first match against Australia”, says Belgium striker John-John Dohmen.

Belgium, who qualified by winning the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi Final in Rotterdam, have made incredible strides forward over the past few years, a trend that very much continued throughout the 2013 period. Dohmen explains: “We achieved good results in our last tournaments and we would like to continue with this. All of us are very proud to play for our country and of course we would like to win this tournament.”

However, winning the trophy will be a tough challenge for the Red Lions, as Australian captain Mark Knowles has made clear: “We are here to win", he said. "We are definitely not here to come fifth or sixth. We are coming to a new tournament with a new trophy played at a great stadium."

The lowest ranked team featuring in the tournament are Argentina, but coach Carlos Retegui sees this as an important part of his team's learning curve. "This is a very important tournament for us because we will be playing against the best teams in the world. Playing these teams will help us grow and become better; essential if we are to rise up the international rankings."

Recent performances by Argentina suggest that they are more than capable of playing above their rankings. In the World League Semi Final in Johor Bahru, they pushed Germany all the way, eventually losing 4-2.

Alongside Olympic medallists Australia and Germany, one of the pre-tournament favourites are the Netherlands. Captain Robert van der Horst underlined the aspirations of the Dutch team: “Our expectations are very high. We are ready for the tournament and it is time for us to win a final.”

Another team certain to stand in the way of the Dutch team are near-neighbours and fierce rivals Germany. "We will pose a major threat, says stand-in captain Oliver Korn. “We have an experienced team and I know that we are able to defeat any other team here.”

29-year-old Korn – who is standing in as captain for injured Max Muller – is honoured to be leading the German squad in Delhi. He points out: “This is the kick-off into the year of the World Cup. We want to improve our game during the tournament.”

Germany's first opponents are New Zealand and the Black Sticks captain Dean Couzins is under no illusion as to the enormity of the task ahead of the team ranked seventh. "Germany have a strong side and the games against England and India will be difficult as well. But we are really looking forward to playing India in front of their home crowd. That’s going to be a highlight.”

India’s team-captain Sardar Singh agrees on the importance of this competition ahead of the World Cup: “It will be a great experience, especially for the young players in our team. This is a very important tournament.”

Fourth ranked England open their account against the host nation, and can expect a vocal crowd to greet them. Captain Barry Middleton is looking forwards to the challenge of playing the host nation in their national stadium: “We will try to play the best we can. The Indian crowd is amazing.”

How are you going to make your mark?

Hockey fans can follow all the action on the FIH Youtube channel or via the FIH event microsite.