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Indoor Hockey World Cup Preview

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The top 24 indoor hockey teams in the world will come together for the fifth Indoor Hockey World Cup from 7-11 February. The venue for the event is the magnificent 7,000-seat Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin, Germany, and with tickets sold out, this promises to be one amazing showcase for a sport that often takes a back seat to its outdoor elder sibling.

In a year where World Champions will be crowned in both formats of the game, some of thetas are using the Indoor Hockey World Cup as an additional opportunity to prepare their teams for the thrills and spills of international competition.

For other nations, this is the chance to make a name for themselves as World Champions in a sport that is growing in popularity in all areas of the globe.

This article gives a run down of the participating teams but a few highlights will include the debut performances of USA women and Kazakhstan men; the passion and flair of Iran men; the creativity of the Trinidad and Tobago team and the exciting prospect of a German women’s team that is determined to add World Cup gold to the EuroHockey gold they won in January.

The Max-Schmeling-Halle will play host to 80 international matches, with 24 matches taking place each day on the first two days of competition. In total, 24 teams are participating, 12 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams. The first match takes place at 9am, the final match finishes at 11pm. Once the pool games are over, the matches move to the quarter-final stages. The top four teams in each pool will contest these, with the first placed team in Pool A playing fourth in Pool B; second in Pool A versus third in Pool B and so on.

From this point, the winning teams will then enter a semi-final stage, the losers will place off for 5-8th place. The matches to decide 9-12th take place ahead of the semi-finals. On 11 February, the entire competition comes to a dramatic finale as the bronze medal matches and gold medal matches take place.

Participating nations and their Hero FIH Indoor Hockey World Rankings (WR)

Women’s Indoor Hockey World Cup

Women’s Pool A teams: Netherlands (WR: 1), Poland (WR: 4), Belarus (WR:5), Kazakhstan (WR: 12), Switzerland (Wr: 19) and USA (WR: 20)

Women’s Pool B teams: Germany (WR: 2), Czech Republic (WR: 3), Ukraine (WR: 7), Australia (WR: 8), Namibia (WR: 14), and Russia (WR: 17)

Men’s Indoor Hockey World Cup

Men’s Pool A teams: Germany (WR: 1), Poland (WR: 5), Czech Republic (WR: 6), Australia (WR: 11), Kazakhstan (WR: 16), Trinidad & Tobago (WR: 18)

Men’s Pool B teams: Austria (WR:2), Russia (WR: 4), Iran (Wr: 7), Switzerland (Wr: 8), South Africa (WR: 12) and Belgium (WR: 16)

A look at the teams competing in the Women’s Indoor Hockey World Cup

The trophy has batted back and forth between Germany and the Netherlands, with both teams winning twice to date. Netherlands are the reigning Indoor World Cup champions, and they also won in 2007, when current head coach Marieke Dijkstra was in the team. Netherlands have never failed to make a final in this event. The team lost to Germany in the recent EuroHockey Indoor Championship but with five changes to that team, they will be looking to retain their title in Berlin.

Player to watch for: Pien van Nes

Marlena Rybacha, captain of Poland, will be seeking to re-establish her team as one of the leading lights of the indoor game. A poor performance at the 2018 EuroHockey Indoor Championships saw the Polish side finish last but this is a side with far more potential than they showed at the EuroHockey event in Prague in January.

Player to watch for: Paula Slawinska

Belarus took bronze at the EuroHockey Indoor Championships in January, beating the higher ranked Czech Republic in a tightly contested match. This is a team with players that can score goals; Yulia Mikheichyk and captain Ryta Batura’s performances in recent games epitomise the Belarus attacking approach.

Player to watch for: Yulia Kurhanskaya

Asian champions, Kazakhstan will be looking to do better than their two previous appearances at this event. In both 2011 and 2015 they finished 12th but, having enjoyed some good recent performances, they must be eyeing a top four finish in the pool this year.

Player to watch for: Vera Domashneva

Switzerland might be ranked 19th in the world but at the 2018 EuroHockey Championships they beat the Netherlands and had some other impressive results against higher-ranked opposition. There is a distinctly family feeling to the Swiss line-up with three sisters, Alexandra, goalkeeper Flurina and captain Stephi Walti all in the team and mother, Monika Walti in her role as team manager.

Player to watch for: Steph Walti

The sixth team in Pool A is the USA. The lowest ranked team in the competition is also the least experienced with nine teenagers making the trip to Germany. That said, this is a team brimming with confidence after they won the 2017 Indoor Pan Am Cup with seven straight victories. Expect Ali Campbell to shine once more – the 26 year-old scored 19 goals in seven games at the continental championships.

Player to watch for: Ali Campbell

Over in Pool B, Germany will be looking for their third win at this event. The team won the recent 2018 EuroHockey Championships, with a side that is very different in composition to the one contesting the World Cup. Captain Janne Muller-Weiland admits this team has only played together once before. The experienced defender says, although they have potential, it’s whether they can come together over the course of the tournament. However, with stars such as Marie Mavers, Luisa Steindor and Anne Schroeder on the team sheet, this is a team that is more than capable of lifting the trophy.

Player to watch for: Marie Mavers

The Czech Republic endured the pain of a fourth-place finish at the 2018 EuroHockey Championships and will be seeking to be among the medals this time. A bronze in Leipzig in 2015 was well-deserved and there is no reason they cannot repeat that feat. In captain Adela Lehocova they have an inspirational leader.

Player to watch: Barbora Haklova

Bronze medallists in 2007, Ukraine are yet another challenger from Eastern Europe. The team is led by Yana Vorushylo, who was part of the successful 2007 unit. Head coach Svitlana Makaieva has selected a squad packed full of experience.

Player to watch: Oksana Ponomarenko

Oceania champions Australia have a solid history at Indoor Hockey World Cup events. The team’s sixth place finish in 2007 was their best to date but with Australia, you always know they set out their stall to win. Shelley Watson brings the experience gained from three previous World Cup appearances and Lauren Austin will be looking to get her name on the score-sheet with her usual regularity.

Player to watch: Teagan Boucher

Namibia are making their second Indoor Hockey World Cup appearance after a 10th place finish in 2011. The African champions beat South Africa to the title after holding the red-hot favourites to a 3-3 draw and then winning the shoot-out. Magreth Mengo, Marcia Venter and Jerrica Bartlett are the experienced trio from the 2011 campaign.

Player to watch: Marcia Venter

The sixth team in Pool B are the Russian challengers. In Valeriia Borisova, the team has a fantastic young player, who showed her ability to create and score goals at the 2018 EuroHockey Championships. Borisnova netted 10 times in five matches. Bogdana Sadovaia is another team member with an uncanny knack for scoring goals. She represented Ukraine at the 2007 Indoor World Cup, so brings her experience to the tournament.

Player to watch: Valeriia Borisova

Men’s Indoor Hockey World Cup

Germany have won the title three out of four times. At the 2015 event in Leipzig they lost to the Netherlands but a team comprising Tobias Hauke, Matsa Grambusch, Martin Haner and Christopher Ruhr will certainly mean business. Add in a home crowd and you have a team that will be pushing for gold.

Player to watch: Mats Grambusch

Three second place finishes for Poland means the European team have come tantalisingly close to realising their potential at this event. A seventh place finish in 2015 was a blot on an otherwise excellent indoor hockey cv. In Artur Mikula, Poland have one of the game’s greats, while Kristin Makowski played a huge role in Poland’s fourth place finish at the 2018 EuroHockey Championships – an entertaining match in which they lost 9-8 to Germany.

Player to watch: Artur Mikula

A podium finish has to be a viable aim for the Czech Republic. They come to the competition on the back of a workmanlike campaign at 2018 EuroHockey Championships. They finished in fifth place there but over the course of the event players such as Lukas Plochy and Jakub Kyndl both showed immense ability. With seven players over 30 in the team, this is a squad with a depth of experience.

Player to watch: David Vacek

Australia have qualified for every edition of the Indoor World Cup but have never finished higher than seventh. Their current ranking suggest that they might not push for a podium place this time but as everyone knows, the Australia team will always leave everything on the pitch as they strive for a victory. Coach Steve Willer will look to Thomas Sinclair, Benjamin Rennie and Heath Ogilvie to pass on the experience they gained at the 2015 Indoor World Cup.

Player to watch: Heath Ogilvie

Kazakhstan are making their debut at the Indoor World Cup this year after finishing runners-up to Iran in the 2017 Indoor Asia Cup. The event is certain to be a hint step forward in Kazakhstan’s hockey performances and Berlin will provide a great platform for the likes of talented forward Yermek Tashkeyev.

Player to watch: Daudet Urmanov

Pan American Hockey Federation continental champions Trinidad & Tobago are making their second appearance at the Indoor World Cup. They finished 12th at the 2007 edition in Vienna. Several members of the current squad were in Vienna and will be bringing all the experience gained then to this competition. Expect strong performances from Akim Toussaint, captain Solomon Eccles, goalkeeper Ron Alexander and Mickel Pierre, who all know what it take to compete at this level.

Player to watch: Akim Toussaint

In Pool B, Austria are the current in-form team and many people’s favourite to lift the trophy. Silver medallists in 2015, the pain of loss could drive Austria to go one better this time around. Crowned continental champions in Antwerp at the recent EuroHockey Indoor Championships, the team has some names synonymous with indoor hockey. Benjamin Stanzl and Michael Koper are standout players on the pitch, while Mateusz Szymczyk is an outstanding goalkeeper.

Player to watch: Michael Korper

Russia have finished in the top five of the past three editions of the Indoor Hockey World Cup, showing a consistency in form and performance. If it wants to go one better and contest the medal places, the team will need to up its game following a sixth place finish at the 2018 EuroHockey Championships. Sergei Kostarev brings experience to the side as he competes in his fourth World Cup.

Player to watch: Mikhail Proskuriakov

 

The Asia indoor champions Iran, bring a new style of hockey to the competition. The team has become renowned for its passion, skill and creativity. Iran gets better with each edition – a ninth place finish in 2003 has been followed by two fifth place finishes and a fourth. Head coach Safaei Esfandyar has brought an experienced squad to Berlin, with most of the team veterans of at least one Indoor World Cup campaign.

Player to watch: Behdad Beiranvand

Patrick Muller captains Switzerland in both the outdoor and indoor version of the game. The team competing in Berlin is a well-balanced mix of young players – with six players 21 or under – and experienced team members. This balance worked well at the 2018 EuroHockey Championships where Switzerland finished fourth. Yves Morard is likely to be an influential figure in front of goal.

Player to watch: Roman Richner

South Africa’s highest finish at the Indoor World Cup was 10th in 2003. They will be hoping to defy both this trend and their world ranking by making the quarter-finals at the very least. This is a team with a number of experienced internationals, albeit from the outdoor team. Wade Paton, Jethro Eustice and Ryan Julius are all part of the current South Africa outdoor squad and will be hoping to get a good performance at the Indoor World Cup under their belt before the Commonwealth Games in two months time.

Player to watch: Ryan Julius

Like South Africa, Belgium are a team with a low ranking but high expectations. The squad is packed with talented players, many of who are current outdoor internationals and silver Olympic medallists. Cedric Charlier, Gauthier Boccard and Tom Boon are among the stellar players who are looking to make an impact on the biggest international indoor stage. Belgium arrive in Berlin on the back of a performance at the EuroHockey Indoor Championships that saw them beat five teams that lie above them in the rankings to pick up a silver medal. This is a team that will be looking for a podium finish.

Player to watch: Jeremy Gucassoff

The competition gets underway on 7 February as Australia women face Ukraine at 9am. A full schedule of action follows on two pitches. All the teams will play twice. Expect two deafening moments in the stadium – at 11:20 when the German women open their account against Russia and then at 12.30pm as Germany men take on tournament newcomers Kazakhstan.

Reports of all the action can be found on the International Hockey Federation website www.fih.ch and you can also catch the action on a dedicated YouTube channel. Visit the FIH website for more details.


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