With places up for grabs at the Men’s and Women’s World Cups in 2018, the Men’s and Women’s Pan American Cups are the first of a series of continental qualifiers taking place in the coming weeks. Winners of these events will secure qualification for the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, Bhubaneswar 2018 and the Hockey Women’s World Cup, London 2018.
It has been 21 years since a major international hockey event took place on USA soil – and that was just one part of a multi-sport event, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. From 4-13 August, Spooky Nook in Pennsylvania – the home to the USA women’s team – will play host to the first field hockey-only major event to take place in the USA. Add to that notable first, the fact that this is the first dual-gender Pan Am Cup, with men and women’s matches taking place on alternate days, and you just know this is going to be memorable occasion in the PAHF’s timeline.
So, let’s take a look at the teams who are hoping to lift the trophies on 12 (men) and 13 August (women).
Since its inception in 2000, the Men’s Pan Am Cup has attracted 15 different nations. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Mexico and USA have competed in all four previous editions and will also be appearing at Spooky Nook this time around, while nations such as Peru, Netherlands Antilles, Jamaica and Cuba are all one-timers at the event. Cuba has the distinction of being the only men’s team with a 100 per cent success rate. They entered the event in 2000 – held in Havana – won it after a 2-1 result over Canada, and have not appeared since.
Likewise, in the women’s event, 14 different teams have participated, with just Argentina, Canada and USA appearing at all four previous editions. Barbados, Bermuda, Guyana and Venezuela are among those with only one appearance. This year will herald Brazil women’s debut at the event.
In the men’s event, which starts on 4 August, the team to beat will be the current title holders Argentina. Ranked number one in the world and Olympic gold medallists, this is a team that is cresting a wave and coach Carlos Retegui will want to maintain his team’s momentum. Argentina recently booked their tickets to the Odisha Men's Hockey World Cup after claiming second place in the FIH Men’s Hero Hockey World League Semi-Finals in London, England.
Canada men are ranked 11 in the world and a victory over India [ranked 6] at the London HWL Semi-Final event is a clear signal that the team’s qualification for Rio 2016 was no flash-in-the-pan. This is a team with ambition and quality within its ranks.
Host nation USA (WR: 26) will want to build on their A bronze medal at HWL Round Two. This is a team with a lot to prove in front of a home crowd.
Chile (WR:27) have three bronze medals from the past three Pan American Games. The South American country is used to performing in tournaments, and beating higher ranked opponents. Add to this a failure to perform at the HWL Round Two in Tacarigua, Trinidad and Tobago and you have a team determined to put things right and finish among the medals.
Brazil (WR: 29) qualified for this event after winning gold at the 2015 Pan American Challenge in Chiclayo, Peru. They finished fourth at the 2015 Pan American Games and their performance at the recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games provided an invaluable opportunity to play tournament hockey against higher-ranked teams.
Hosting a HWL Round Two event in April, Trinidad and Tobago (WR: 33) faced USA in the quarterfinal. Although they fell 3-2 in the shootout round, Trinidad and Tobago are a team that can prove a threat to higher ranked teams.
Mexico (WR: 41) and Venezuela (WR: 48) both qualified for PAC from the Pan American Challenge. Mexico recently hosted and participated in the FIH Hockey World League Round 1 in Salamanca, Mexico in September 2016. Of the four-team event, Mexico showed impressive goal scoring abilities on their route to claim third. Venezuela also competed in Round 1 as well as the South American Championship in Chiclayo, Peru in 2016, where they came second to Chile.
On the women’s side, expect some epic battles between closely matched rivals. Argentina and USA are ranked three and four in the world and there is nothing USA would like more than to wrest this title from Las Leonas. Further down the rankings, Canada, Chile and Uruguay are also likely to be involved in some highly competitive action to establish continental bragging rights.
Argentina has won every edition of this event and have also secured their place at the Women’s Hockey World Cup in London, England courtesy of a fourth place finish at the FIH Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg, South Africa. A 5-2 loss to England in the battle for third place in Johannesburg indicates that Argentina is still re-discovering its best form.
Host nation USA won the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg in some style, claiming their first gold medal at a top tier global event. Add to this back-to-back Pan American Games titles (2011 and 2015) and a bronze medal at the 2016 Champions Trophy in London and it is clear that the USA are a team with heaps of self belief. Recent results has moved USA to fourth in the world rankings.
Canada women, ranked 19th in the world, have had a roller-coaster in recent seasons. On their day, they are very good and can challenge the best; on a bad day they under perform – a fifth place finish at the HWL Round Two in West Vancouver, Canada, was one such occasion. But this is a team that has recent experience against higher-ranked opponents and a podium place is well within their reach.
Chile (20) comes to PAC after earning a silver at HWL Round 2 in Vancouver, Canada in April. They lost in the final to India in a shootout, 3-1 but the result took them to the HWL Semi-finals in South Africa where they were in the same pool as Argentina and USA. Chile finished pool play with one win over the higher ranked host nation but the experience will have proved invaluable to this progressive team.
Also competing at the FIH Hockey World League Round Two in West Vancouver, Canada were Uruguay (23) and Mexico (30). Facing off against each other in the quarterfinal round, Uruguay came out victorious before falling to Chile in the semi-finals to earn fourth. Mexico went on to claim sixth place.
At 41 Brazil are the lowest ranked and least internationally experienced side. They won the 2015 Pan American Challenge against Barbados, which was a qualifier for this event. The beauty of this tournament is that it gives teams such as Brazil a chance to compete on a inspirational sporting stage, and that experience can never be underestimated.
Men’s World Rankings
No. 1 Argentina
No. 11 Canada
No. 26 USA
No. 27 Chile
No. 29 Brazil
No. 33 Trinidad & Tobago
No. 41 Mexico
No. 48 Venezuela
Women’s World Rankings
No. 3 Argentina
No. 4 USA
No. 19 Canada
No. 20 Chile
No. 23 Uruguay
No. 30 Mexico
No. 41 Brazil