Hockey World Cup: Australia favourites to top Pool A
New Delhi, January 6, 2023
The 16 best teams from across all the continents will battle for supremacy in the FIH Odisha Hockey World Cup. However, the first hurdle these teams will face is from their pool opponents.
The 15th edition of the World Cup will be played from 13 to 29 January in Odisha.
Winning the pool gives the teams a huge advantage, as it leads to straight qualification into the quarter-finals, while second and third placed teams will play an additional cross-over round.
The teams have been divided into four pools of four teams each.
Pool A comprises Australia, Argentina, France and South Africa and the Kookaburras are favourites to top it.
Australia is the only team to have remained in the top four of the FIH World Rankings for the last 30 years. During this period, they have been the most consistent team having have won the Olympic, World Cup, Pro League and Oceania Cup titles.
In 2022, they won the seventh Commonwealth Games title, drubbing India 7-0 in Birmingham. Nathan Ephraums and Jacob Anderson, the latter a travelling reserve for this event, both scored twice with Blake Govers, Tom Wickham and Flynn Ogilvie also netting in typically devastating displays from the brilliant Aussies.
A shoot-out loss to Belgium in the gold medal match at the delayed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was painful, but may serve as motivation as the brilliant Aussies go in search of a record-equalling fourth world title.
Argentina, the 2016 Rio Olympics winner, have been crowned Pan American continental champions on 14 separate occasions.
Also known as Los Leones, they are serious contenders for the g old. Coached by former Argentina goalkeeper Mariano Ronconi, the team includes Agustin Mazzilli, Lucas Vila and team captain Matias Rey.
The team recorded a notable 2-1 victory over reigning Olympic and World champions Belgium in November, providing a timely reminder that they can match the best in the business. Can Argentina emulate their men’s football team by winning a World Cup on Asian soil?
France played their first World cup after a gap of 28 years in 2018, in Bhubaneswar. Having been drawn in the same pool as Rio 2016 Olympic champions Argentina, Spain, and New Zealand, many expected them to crash out of the contention at the early stage.
However, after suffering a narrow defeat against the New Zealand, the French (also known as Les Bleus) surprised everybody by making it to the World Cup quarter-finals. A draw with higher-ranked Spain was followed by a stunning 5-3 victory over Argentina, sealing their place in the knock-out stages of the competition, where they beat China to set up a last eight meeting with Australia.
Although they lost to the Aussies , they left the competition with their heads held high, having earned respect from everyone who saw them in action.
A fifth-place finish at the Nations Cup was below expectations, but with the likes of penalty corner ace Victor Charlet and seasoned talent Gaspard Baumgarten, France will be a dangerous outfit here in Odisha.
South Africa surprised everybody with their superb title victory in the recent Nations Cup hoste by them and have every reason to believe that they can achieve big things here in Odisha.
South Africa had chalked out wins over Pakistan, France, and Korea before claiming a thrilling 4-3 win against Ireland in the final. Inspirational 23-year-old captain Dayaan Cassiem scored twice in the title match, with younger sibling Mustaphaa netting a penalty stroke won by his big brother.
The highly skilled Cassiem brothers are the poster boys of this new generation. Striker Tevin Kok is proving himself to be a reliable source of goals, while 33-year-old defender Jethro Eustice brings a steady, experienced head to this spirited team.