The 14th edition of the Men’s Hockey World Cup kicks off today in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar. Two time defending champions Australia are favourites going into the tournament but will face tough competition from the world’s best in their bid to three-peat.
The event consists of sixteen teams which are split into four different groups. The top teams from each group will directly qualify for the quarter finals whilst the second and third placed teams compete in playoffs to determine the other quarter final spots.
Group A features Olympic Champions Argentina, Spain, New Zealand and France. The Argentinians are currently ranked second in the world rankings and are expected to comfortably top the group. The playoff spots are set to be shared between Spain and New Zealand who are very evenly matched. France are considerably lacking in class and will struggle to pick up points.
Australia winning the 2014 World Cup. Credit- International Hockey federation
Group B includes two time defending World Champions Australia as well as England, Ireland and China. Despite the England side making major improvements in recent years, Australia are firm favourites to finish top of the group. The playoff spots are expected to be shared between the home nations, however China could provide an upset.
Group C contains Olympic silver medallists Belgium and hosts India, as well as Canada and South Africa. Top spot in the group will be fiercely fought for between Belgium and India with very little to split the two sides. At the other end of the group, both Canada and South Africa are evenly matched and will battle for the second playoff spot. Canada should have enough in their locker to prevail.
Group D has been given the nickname ‘group of death’. It features the Netherlands, Germany, Malaysia and Pakistan. In the history of the Hockey World Cup, nine out of the 13 tournaments has been won by a team from this group. Historic powerhouse Pakistan has won the championship four times, the Netherlands three and Germany twice. Alongside these hockey greats is a continually improving Malaysian side who sit 12thin the world rankings, one place ahead of Pakistan. Top spot is anticipated to be secured by either the Netherlands or Germany but it is very difficult to predict how this group will pan out.
Netherlands fans at the 2014 World Cup. Credit- International Hockey Federation
Hockey legend Ric Charlesworth has spoken about his predictions for the upcoming World Cup. The Australian was a decorated player winning a silver medal in the 1976 Olympic Games and a gold medal in the 1986 Hockey World Cup. After retiring Charlesworth went into coaching and has led both the Australian Men’s and Women’s teams to multiple World Cup successes and Olympic Golds. It is safe to say that he knows what he is talking about. Speaking about the upcoming tournament, Ric confidently said “The World Cup winner could be anyone among Netherlands, Belgium and Australia. Those are my three picks.”
The tournament runs from November 28 to December 16 and promises to be a classic. You can watch all the action live on BT sport as Hockey’s best compete for the ultimate prize.
Below is a promo video released by the International Hockey Federation to get you in the mood:
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