The 16 best men’s teams from around the world are converging in Odisha, India, as we countdown to the final few days till the start of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023. Each team comes with the aim of becoming world champions, but only one team can earn the highest honour at the end of the World Cup.
The first obstacle for all 16 teams in the event comes in the form of their pool opponents. Winning the pool gives the teams a huge advantage, as it leads to straight qualification into the quarterfinals, while second and third placed teams play an additional cross-over round.
Here’s a look at the teams in Pool C and the unique playing styles they will bring to the World Cup:
Under head coach Jeroen Delmee, the legendary Dutch defender who as a player won two Olympic gold medals, the Netherlands have found a consistency in their performance levels which has already started to reap rewards. Since taking charge in the latter part of 2021, Delmee has injected a significant amount of fresh talent into the Oranje squad.
The young guns rose to the challenge in style, winning 12 of their 16 matches in the 2021-22 edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League to win the title for the first time. Captain Thierry Brinkman and striker Koen Bijen top scored for the Netherlands with seven goals apiece, with six goals coming from both Dennis Warmerdam and penalty corner ace Jip Janssen. Thanks to their excellent form, two Dutchmen, who are also a part of the World Cup squad, earned nominations for the FIH Hockey Stars Awards for 2021-22, with captain Brinkman shortlisted for the Best Men’s Player prize while Pirmin Blaak was selected for the Best Goalkeeper award.
Having suffered painful defeats in the last two FIH Men’s World Cup finals, the Netherlands will be aiming to make it third time lucky this time around and win a fourth world crown, a feat only Pakistan have managed to achieve.
New Zealand are all set to compete in their 11th FIH Men’s World Cup, with the Odisha event being their seventh in succession. They are yet to finish higher than seventh, a placing they have achieved on four separate occasions, but that could all change this time around.
The Black Sticks are always a force to be reckoned with, being blessed with some genuinely world class players amongst their ranks. Blair Tarrant is a fine defender who has represented his country more than 230 times, while the likes of veteran striker Simon Child, Sam Lane, and penalty corner weapon Kane Russell are all goal threats. Highly regarded defensive midfielder Nick Ross makes a return to the team after taking a break throughout 2022, while 19-year-old debutant defender Charlie Morrison will be relishing the opportunity to show his talents on the big stage after gaining selection.
The team is coached by former South Africa striker Greg Nicol, who represented his country at the Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games as well as the 2002 FIH Men’s World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Malaysia will compete in their third successive FIH Men’s World Cup competition thanks to a fine second place finish at the 2022 Men’s Hockey Asia Cup. The Speedy Tigers were in outstanding form at the event in Jakarta, Indonesia, reaching the competition final without losing any of their six matches to secure their World Cup ticket before eventually going down 2-1 to Korea in the gold medal game.
The team featured in two competitions in the latter part of 2022, winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on home soil with a 3-2 victory over Korea before losing 4-0 to the same opponent in the bronze medal match at the inaugural FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022.
Known for their distinctive brand of high-paced attacking hockey, Malaysia – coached by Arul Anthoni, who represented the country as a player at the 1998 FIH Men’s World Cup in Utrecht, Netherlands – are certainly capable of hurting any team that they play against. Razie Rahim is a potent weapon from penalty corner situations, while Faiz Jali, Firhan Ashari and Azuan Hasan bring a wealth of international experience to the table.
On 28 January 2022, Chile secured qualification for the FIH Men’s World Cup for the first time in their history. A 3-1 victory over Mexico in the cross-over phase of the 2022 Men’s Pan American Cup, being played on home soil in Santiago, had set up a winner-takes-all semi-final meeting with the USA.
It proved to be a match of huge tension, with neither team being able to break the deadlock before Chile emerged victorious in the shoot-out. Chilean goalkeeper Adrian Henriquez was beaten just once in the one-on-ones, with Juan Amoroso, Franco Becerra and Kay Gesswein netting the goals to seal a place in the event final and the all-important World Cup ticket that came with it. The team were well beaten in the competition final, with Argentina storming to a 5-1 victory, but it mattered little.
In October 2022, Chile claimed their fourth silver medal at the South American Games in Luque, Paraguay, being defeated again by Argentina but scoring an incredible 53 goals in just five matches. The team is captained by Fernando Renz and coached by Jorge Dabanch.