With just a day until the action gets underway, the 23rd edition of the Hockey Champions Trophy is set to be a humdinger of a contest as the teams seek to end the year on a high and prepare for the challenges of the FIH Pro League in 2019.
The Wanglibao Hockey Champions Trophy Changzhou Wujin 2018 sees six of the world’s best teams come together in a top-class, round robin event, where the hockey is intense and the competition uncompromising. Speak to any athlete who has experienced this event and they will say that Champions Trophy hockey is as good as it gets.
Taking to the turf in China are the top four ranked teams in the FIH Hero World Rankings, the Netherlands (WR:1), Great Britain (WR:2), Australia (WR:3) and Argentina (WR:4). They are joined by two giants of Asian hockey – China (WR:11) and Japan (WR:14).
Of those six teams, four have won this event in the past. China won the title in 2002, the Netherlands and Australia have both taken gold on six occasions but the leading nation in Champions Trophy history is Las Leonas, the reigning champions and seven times winners.
There is an extra sense of history for this edition of the Champions Trophy as it may well be the last time the event takes place. For the Netherlands, a win would mean they would be the first and last name on the trophy as they were winners at the inaugural event in 1987. The Oranje also have a two-year unbeaten run to defend. The last time the Dutch team lost at a major international tournament was in 2016 in the final of the Rio Olympic Games. Were they to meet Great Britain in the final of this contest, there would be a huge incentive to gain revenge and maintain that winning streak.
Argentina have a great tradition in the Champions Trophy and, by their captain Delfina Merino’s own admission, it is an event the team absolutely love. To finish as the most successful team in Champions Trophy history would make a below par performance at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup earlier this year a little more palatable.
Australia would see a win in Changzhou as confirmation that they are back in the mix as one of the top teams in the world. Despite dominating the Oceania Cup and the Commonwealth Games in recent years, there have been no gold medals for the Hockeyroos at world level since 2003. It is a trend that Paul Gaudoin and his squad would like to put an end to.
For Great Britain, a first ever Champions Trophy gold medal would be the perfect way to resume competition after their Olympic triumph at the 2016 Olympic Games. Since then, they have competed as England, Scotland and Wales, so to resume winning ways as Great Britain would be a nice way to prepare for Tokyo 2020.
The Tokyo Games will be the driving force behind Japan’s challenge. They have been developing their squad in order to give good showing in front of a home crowd in 2020. A win at the Asian Games was a good indication that Anthony Farry has the team moving in the right direction. Japan could be the dark horse of this event.
The final team in our super six is the host nation, China. 2018 has not been a good year for the China hockey team. They were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup in the first round of competition and then only managed a bronze medal at the Asian games, when they would have been aiming for gold. To win at home, in front of their own supporters would be a huge fillip for both the team and their new Head Coach, Huang Yongsheng.
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