With the start of the hugely-anticipated Rabobank Hockey World Cup rapidly approaching, we bring you the first of two team-focused tournament previews ahead of tournament Day 1 in The Hague. Today we take a closer look at all 12 teams that will do battle in what promises to be a truly epic men’s competition. Tomorrow, we will switch our focus to the 12 women’s national sides that will fight for the right to be crowned as the greatest team on earth. More information about the teams including complete squad lists can be found on the following link: http://www.rabobankhockeyworldcup2014.com/countries . Enjoy!
Pool A – Australia, England, Belgium, India, Spain, Malaysia
Current FIH World Ranking: 1
How they qualified: Continental champions of Oceania
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 8th, 1975 – 5th, 1978 – 3rd, 1982 – 3rd, 1986 – 1st, 1990 – 3rd, 1994 – 3rd, 1998 – 4th, 2002 – 2nd, 2006 – 2nd, 2010 – 1st
About the team: Reigning World Champions Australia come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup as the number one ranked team and have set themselves the clear target of defending the title they won in New Delhi, India four years ago. Legendary coach Ric Charlesworth – who recently announced his intention to step down after the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland – has named a squad packed full of tried and tested world class players along with a sprinkling of fresh talent. Four players – Rob Hammond, Liam de Young, Mark Knowles and 35-year-old striker and five times FIH Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer – are all Gold medalists from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and were central figures in the squad that won the 2010 World Cup. Kieran Govers, Fergus Kavanagh, Glenn Turner, Simon Orchard, Matthew Swann and brilliant attacker Eddie Ockenden were also members of the 2010 team, ensuring that there is plenty of Hockey World Cup experience within the group. The youngest member of the squad is Jeremy Hayward, a 21-year-old attacker who recently made his senior international tournament debut at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, impressing with three goals as “The Kookaburras” claimed the title. Australia are widely expected to be among the frontrunners for the Gold medal, and could take some stopping.
Current FIH World Ranking: 4
How they qualified: 3rd place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Johor Bahru (MAS)
Rank in previous editions: 1973 – 6th, 1975 – 6th, 1978 – 7th, 1982 – 8th, 1986 – 2nd, 1990 – 5th, 1994 – 6th, 1998 – 6th, 2002 – 7th, 2006 – 5th, 2010 – 4th
About the team: As expected, England coach Bobby Crutchley has named his strongest possible squad for this tournament, with experienced trio Ashley Jackson, Simon Mantell, and Nick Catlin being selected alongside brilliant captain Barry Middleton, a player considered to be among the very best attackers in the game. However, the team will be without defender and penalty corner specialist Richard Smith, who looks likely to miss all of the 2014 calendar due to knee surgery. Midfield ace Adam Dixon, who has been one of England’s star performers over the past 18 months, has also been selected despite recently suffering ligament damage whilst representing his club side Beeston in the Euro Hockey League. England claimed a fifth place finish in the 2006 Hockey World Cup in Mönchengladbach (GER) and went one better at the 2010 event in New Delhi (IND) by finishing fourth. Their talented, fit and well-drilled squad certainly has the potential to get among the medals in The Hague.
Current FIH World Ranking: 5
How they qualified: 1st place – Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1973 – 8th, 1978 – 14th, 1994 – 11th, 2002 – 14th
About the team: Competing in their first World Cup since the 2002 event in Kuala Lumpur (MAS), Belgium have made incredible strides forward over the past few years. Head coach Marc Lammers, the legendary Dutchman who guided the Netherlands women to Olympic Gold at Beijing 2008, has moulded the “Red Lions” into one of the most feared attacking sides in the world, a fact proven by two victories over reigning World Champions Australia on their way to winning the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Final event in Rotterdam last summer. The Belgium side that competes in The Hague is hugely experienced, with ten players having surpassed the 100 international appearances mark – Xavier Reckinger (310+ caps), John-John Dohmen (260+), Jerome Truyens (260+), Cedric Charlier (170+), Thomas Briels (200+), Felix Denayer (170+), Alex de Saedeleer (170+), Simon Gougnard (140+), Elliot van Strydonck (100+) and goal machine Tom Boon (150+). Despite their vast on-field experience, the fact that this group contains just one player over 27 – 30-year-old Xavier Reckinger – suggests that this talented pool of players are likely to remain together for many years to come. Although Belgium were narrowly beaten by Olympic Champions Germany in the final of the TriFinance EuroHockey Nations Continental Championship last summer, they will come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup knowing they are serious contenders.
Current FIH World Ranking: 8
How they qualified: 6th place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 3rd, 1973 – 2nd, 1975 – 1st, 1978 – 6th, 1982 – 5th, 1986 – 12th, 1990 – 10th, 1994 – 5th, 1998 – 9th, 2002 – 10th, 2006 – 11th, 2010 – 8th
About the team: Although many have written off India’s chances of a podium finish, there are some – most notably Hockey India’s High Performance Director and legendary Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans – who believe that the side are making big strides in the right direction and could well surprise in The Hague. Current head coach and former Australian international Terry Walsh has been working hard to enhance India’s physical and mental strength ahead of this tournament in a bid to give his charges the best possible chance of success. Walsh has selected a team which is still very much focused on the future, with only four members of the Hockey World Cup squad having surpassed the 100 cap marker – Gurbaj Singh (150+ caps), S.V. Sunil (130+), V.R. Raghunath (150+) and inspirational captain Sardar Singh (180+). Giant drag-flicking defender Raghunath and classy midfielder Sardar are the stars of the show, but lively 19-year-old striker Mandeep Singh is another player well worth keeping an eye on. India’s young guns claimed an extremely creditable second place finish behind Korea at the 2013 Asia Cup, and will be hoping to continue their rapid development in The Hague.
Current FIH World Ranking: 10
How they qualified: 5th place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Rotterdam (NED)
Rank in previous editions: 1971 – 2nd, 1973 – 5th, 1975 – 8th, 1978 – 5th, 1982 – 11th, 1986 – 5th, 1990 – 8th, 1994 – 9th, 1998 – 2nd, 2002 – 11th, 2006 – 3rd, 2010 – 5th
About the team: With fifth place finishes in both the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships (Boom, BEL) and the Hockey World League Semi-Final (Rotterdam, NED), it is fair to say that 2013 was not the best of years for Spain. That being said, they have more than enough big game players in their team to perform well above what their 10th place in the FIH World Ranking would suggest. The squad selected by head coach Salva Indurain contains eight survivors from the side that claimed Olympic Silver at the Beijing 2008 Games, including attacking superstars Santi Freixa and Eduard Tubau; brilliant shot-stopper Quico Cortes as well as talented siblings Ramon and David Alegre. Roc Oliva, Sergi Enrique and Eduard Arbos were also members of the “class of 2008”, ensuring that the squad contains plenty of world class experience. As well as their tried and tested campaigners the team also contains a number of promising youngsters who are very much the future of the Spanish team. The pick of the bunch is 23-year-old speed merchant Xavi Lleonart, who has the potential to be a big star at this Hockey World Cup. Spain come into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup on the back of winning a four nations invitational tournament in Barcelona, defeating Wales (5-0), Russia (4-3) and Ireland (4-2) to finish top of the standings.
Current FIH World Ranking: 13
How they qualified: 5th place – Hockey World League Semi-Final, Johor Bahru (MAS)
Rank in previous editions: 1973 – 11th, 1975 – 4th, 1978 – 10th, 1982 – 10th, 1998 – 11th, 2002 – 8th
About the team: Making their first World Cup appearance since the 2002 event on home soil in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia will arrive in The Hague in high spirits following a decent run of form. The team claimed a second place finish behind world number 1 and fellow Pool A rivals Australia in March’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (Ipoh, MAS) before taking Bronze at the recent Champions Challenge 1 event (Kuantan, MAS), their first ever medal in Champions Challenge competition. They will be hoping that their recent progression will be the springboard to even greater accomplishments in The Hague. The team is coached by former Malaysian international Muhammad Dhaarma Raj, who stepped up from coaching the men’s U-21 team following the recent departure of South Africa’s Paul Revington. The Malaysia side selected for the World Cup contains seven players who have made more than 200 international appearances – Azlan Misron (330+ caps), Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib (210+), Mohd Sharun Nabil Abdullah (210+), Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor (210+), Kumar Subramiam (goalkeeper - 210+) Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim (200+) and Roslan Jamaluddin (goalkeeper – 200+). Despite being the lowest ranked team in the competition, there is more than enough quality in this Malaysia side to cause problems for any opponent.
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