The FIH Hockey World League (HWL) kicks off today in Antwerp, Belgium and all eyes would be on the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams. The men in blue have already made it to the Hockey World League finals and the Rio Olympics and will enter the league without any pressure. The women’s team on the other hand are yet to book a place in the Olympics and would look to use the Hockey World League Semifinals to their advantage.
Let us analyse the match lineups and chances of both these teams at the Hockey World League Semifinals:
Indian men’s team at the Hockey World League Semifinals:
FIH world ranking: 9
Placed in: Pool A alongside Pakistan, Australia, France, Poland
Performance in HWL 2012-13: Finished sixth
Having already booked a ticket to Rio 2016, the Indian men’s hockey team would gain valuable match practice at the Hockey World League Semifinals. They have also qualified for the finals of the HWL as the tournament is being held in India itself. The HWL Semifinal would be Paul van Ass’ first assignment as the head coach of the men’s side and the Indians are sure to put up a good show.
Performance in the warm-up matches:
12/06/2015: India 1-0 France
13/06/2015: India 1-2 Belgium
16/06/2015: India 4-0 USA
17/06/2015: India 3-1 Great Britain
Overall: Played-4, Won-3, Lost-1, Goals Scored-9, Goals Conceded-3
FIH Hockey World League Semifinals match lineup:
Saturday, 20/06/2015: India vs France at 9:30 PM
Tuesday, 23/06/2015: India vs Poland at 7:30 PM
Friday, 26/06/2015: Pakistan vs India at 7:30 PM
Sunday, 28/06/2015: India vs Australia at 7:30 PM
Looking at their current form, the Indian men’s hockey team are expected to fare well in the HWL Semifinals. France and Poland should be easy customers though they have been known to trouble India in the past. The last two matches against Australia and Pakistan would be a close call. The Sardar Singh-led team are capable of destroying any opposition on a given day and it would be interesting to see how the men in blue deliver on Belgian turf.
Indian women’s team at the Hockey World League Semifinals:
FIH world ranking: 13
Placed in: Pool B alongside Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Poland
Performance in HWL 2012-13: Finished seventh
The Indian women’s team, led by Ritu Rani, have a tough road ahead of them. In order to qualify for the Rio Olympics, they have to play out of their skins and get the better of higher-ranked teams like Belgium, Australia and New Zealand. Under new coach Mathias Ahrens, the Indian eves have been training hard to match the achievements of their male counterparts but it remains to be seen if they can strike the right chord yet. The Hockey World League Semifinals is a great opportunity for the Indian women’s team to put up a fight against the big guns.
Performance in the warm-up matches
15/06/2015: India 0-2 Japan
16/06/2015: India 1-2 Italy
Overall: Played-2, Won-0, Lost-2, Goals scored-1, Goals conceded-4
FIH Hockey World League Semifinals match lineups:
Saturday, 20/06/2015: Belgium vs India at 7:30 PM
Tuesday, 23/06/2015: New Zealand vs India at 5:30 PM
Wednesday, 24/06/2015: India vs Poland at 7:30 PM
Saturday, 27/06/2015: Australia vs India at 9:30 PM
The Indian eves are not in the best of form as they were on the losing side in both the warm-up games. They play their first game against hosts Belgium, who are ranked just above them (12) and should use this match and the one against Poland to their advantage. The Indian women’s team have upset New Zealand before and would look for an encore of the same. One hopes for a third-place for the Indian women hockey team to qualify for the hockey world league finals but that will take some doing.