Group A will consist of Argentina, Spain, New Zealand and France.
World number two Argentina will start as the overwhelming favourites to top this group. The South Americans, who are the also the defending Olympic champions, recorded their best World Cup finish of third last time around in 2014.
Germán Orozco, the Argentina coach has said that Olympic success has made his team hungrier. “Many of these players are Olympic champions and do not want to settle for that alone. The players know that what they achieved in Rio came as a result of hard work. To repeat that success will be very difficult but we will try to build on that achievement,” he said.
Spain are a team capable of mixing it up with the top guns, with their best finish, a runners-up spot arriving in 1971 and 1998. They will also have to contend with the Black Sticks, New Zealand, who have never finished higher than seventh.
The Oceania team have had a 2018 to remember, finishing runners-up at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, toppling higher-ranked India in the semi-finals. France are the lowest-ranked team in Bhubaneswar and will hope to do more than merely make up the numbers.
For many years, Argentina’s men were hidden in the long shadow cast by the remarkable achievements of their female counterparts.
A bronze medal in The Hague four years ago changed everything, with Los Leones (The Lions) going on to claim the gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, something that even Las Leonas (The Lionesses) have not achieved. Much of the recent success came under the guidance of charismatic Head Coach Carlos ‘Chapa’ Retegui, the man who achieved a unique double by leading both the men’s and women’s teams to World Cup bronze at the 2014 double event in The Hague.
While Retegui is no longer in the hot-seat – Orozco, like Retegui a former Argentina international, is the current head coach – the team very much remain one of the favourites for success in Bhubaneswar.
Players such as prolific penalty corner expert Gonzalo Peillat, creative genius Lucas Vila and rising star Maico Casella are all capable of hurting any team in the world. They also have one of the world’s most experienced players in 36-year-old attacker Matias Paredes, a man with over 330 international appearances.
Paredes is competing in his fifth consecutive World Cup competition, having debuted at the 2002 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Argentina will be hoping to better their 2014 performance, when they took the world by storm with their free-flowing, exciting brand of hockey.
Squad: Juan Vivaldi (GK), Gonzalo Peillat, Juan Gilardi, Pedro Ibarra (C), Maico Casella, Matias Paredes, Joaquin Menini, Lucas Vila, Ignacio Ortiz, Juan Lopez, Tomas Bettaglio, Tomas Santiago (GK), Matias Rey, Lucas Martinez, Nicolas Cicileo, Agustin Mazzilli, Lucas Rossi, Agustin Bugallo
World ranking: 2
Performance in previous Olympics (2016): Champions
Performance in previous World Cup (2014): Finished third
Players to watch out for: Lucas Vila, Gonzalo Peillat and Maico Casella
Spain’s have regularly produced sides that are capable of fighting for the biggest honours in the game, a fact proven by five silver medals at Olympic or World Cup level, not to mention two European championships and a Champions Trophy title.
Whilst it has been a few years since their last podium finish, the current group will feel that they have the talent and unity required to do extremely well in Bhubaneswar.
Head Coach and former France international Frédéric Soyez has instilled a wonderful work ethic into his team without sacrificing any of the flair that has been a signature of so many Spanish sides in the past.
The initial 22 player squad named for the event is full of world level experience, with goalkeeper Quico Cortes, Sergi Enrique, Miguel Delas and Pau Quemada all having played over 200 internationals, a marker that Marc Salles could also reach in Bhubaneswar.
While these elder statesmen are hugely influential in the current set-up, there is plenty of exciting talent emerging, with Enrique Gonzalez widely regarded as one of the hottest young properties in the game.
Squad: Quico Cortes (GK), Sergi Enrique, Marc Serrahima, Ignacio Rodriguez, Miguel Delas (C), Enrique Gonzalez, Alvaro Iglesias, Marc Salles, Ricardo Santana, Diego Arana, Xavi Lleonart, Alejandro de Frutos, Vicenc Ruiz, Albert Beltran, Josep Romeu, Mario Garin (GK), Pau Quemada, Marc Bolto
World ranking: 8
Performance in previous Olympics (2016): Finished 5th
Performance in previous World Cup (2014): Finished 8th
Players to watch out for: Enrique Gonzalez, Sergi Enrique and Pau Quemada
New Zealand qualified for the Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 thanks to their efforts at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg, South Africa. They recorded impressive victories against Japan and Egypt there but, despite hopes of securing automatic qualification for the Bhubaneswar event, they came up short against Ireland in the 5v6 classification match, losing 1-0.
That meant they faced an anxious wait to see if that result was good enough, in the hope that one of the Continental champions had already qualified. The results at the Pan American Cup in Lancaster, USA went in favour of the Black Sticks, with their World Cup berth being confirmed when the already qualified Argentina and Canada reached the competition final.
New Zealand are no strangers to this showcase event having competed nine times and finished in seventh on four occasions that includes the event in The Hague four years ago. Head Coach Darren Smith will be hoping that his side can build on the silver medal claimed earlier this year at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and set a new marker for the Black Sticks in World Cup competition.
The Black Sticks have named an experienced side which remains largely unchanged from the side that competed at the Gold Coast, although attack-minded defender Blair Tarrant returns to lead the side for his second World Cup having missed the Commonwealth Games due to injury. The Kiwis took Australia to the brink in that tournament and, if they can capitalise on some of their opportunities, they could have a chance at claiming a medal at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup.
Squad: Cory Bennett, Dane Lett, Nick Ross, Richard Joyce (GK), Marcus Child, Jared Panchia, George Enersen (GK), Aidan Sarikaya, Nic Woods, Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant (C), Arun Panchia, Shea McAleese, Stephen Jenness, Dominic Newman, Hugo Inglis, George Muir, Hayden Phillips
World ranking: 9
Performance in previous Olympics (2016): Finished 7th
Performance in previous World Cup (2014): Finished 7th
Players to watch out for: Hayden Phillips, Blair Tarrant and Marcus Child
After a 28-year World Cup absence, France make a welcome return to a stage on which they admirably performed in their two previous appearances. The team participated in the inaugural event way back in 1971, where they finished seventh in Barcelona, Spain.
Nineteen years later they repeated the feat, claiming seventh position at the 1990 competition in Lahore, Pakistan. Their World Cup return may have been a long time coming, but this exciting, talented young French team has the potential to make a big impact in Bhubaneswar.
France have been making steady improvement over the past few years, a fact proven by their seventh-place finish at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg after qualifying for the event by finishing second at the Round 2 tournament in Belfast.
A 3-0 win over Egypt secured their classification placement in Johannesburg, although it was not quite good enough for direct qualification. However, it did put them in an excellent position ahead of the Continental Championships.
Their World Cup berth was finally confirmed during the Oceania Cup in Sydney, when the already qualified Australia and New Zealand reached the competition final and in doing so opened the door for this vibrant and entertaining French team.
Towering defender and penalty corner expert Victor Charlet is a key player for the side, as is talented attacking midfielder Hugo Genestet, who is blessed with skill, guile and a keen eye for goal. The team is coached by Jeroen Delmee, a man who won two Olympic gold medals as a player with the Netherlands.
Squad: Arthur Thieffry (GK), Pieter Van Straaten, Tom Genestet, Hugo Genestet, Blaise Rogeau, Viktor Lockwood, Charles Masson, Nicolas Dumont, Gaspard Baumgarten, Francois Goyet, Cristoforo Peters-Deutz, Jean-Baptiste Forgues, Etienne Tynevez, Victor Charlet (C), Aristide Coisne, Maximillien Branicki, Timothee Clement, Corentin Saunier (GK)
World ranking: 20
Performance in previous Olympics (2016): Finished 8th
Performance in previous World Cup (2014): Did not qualify, Finished 7th in their last appearance (1990)
Players to watch out for: Victor Charlet, Hugo Genestet, Viktor Lockwood