2014 Pan American Champions Argentina (FIH World Ranking: 5) have always produced international teams with plenty of talent, but over the past two years the current men’s team has developed into a side that can challenge the very best in the world.
Head Coach and former Argentina international Carlos “Chapa” Retegui – the man who, remarkably, guided both the men and the women’s national sides to Bronze medals at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup – is overseeing the revolution, helping “Los Leones” (The Lions) to realise their massive potential. Their performances at the World Cup helped the South Americans surge from 11th to seventh in the FIH World Rankings. Now up to fifth, they have earned the right to be both respected and feared in equal measure.
Key players include veteran captain Matias Paredes, creative genius Lucas Vila and striker Manuel Brunet, although it is Gonzalo Peillat who often grabs the headlines. The powerfully built 23-year-old – who was named FIH Young Player of the Year for 2014 – is an exceptional defender and feared penalty corner specialist who regularly challenges for the tournament top scorer award in every competition.
Peillat was in sparkling form in July’s Pan American Games, scoring 14 times in six matches as Argentina won the Gold medal for a record ninth time. The team also excelled at the Argentina Hockey World League Semi-Final in Buenos Aires, finishing second behind Olympic champions Germany but doing more than enough to seal tickets to both the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the Hero HWL Final in Raipur. Make no mistake about it, Argentina are currently riding high on a wave of confidence and are certainly capable of challenging for the HWL title.
Nickname: Los Leones (The Lions)
Key player: Lucas Vila. Coach Carlos Retegui is really getting the best out of a player who has long been considered to be one of the most naturally gifted attackers on the planet. Vila has a reputation for scoring spectacular goals and always provides assists for his team-mates. The 28-year-old has been central to Argentina’s rapid raise up the FIH World Rankings table and is sure to make a big impact in Rosario.