The 34th edition of the men’s Champions Trophy is set to kickoff from 1st of December, when the mighty Germans will take on the black sticks, New Zealand. Eight teams will be competing in the State Netball and Hockey Centre of Australia’s sporting capital Melbourne. It’s going to be a treat to watch out for the Hockey lovers, who will see some of the finest teams, including the mighty Australians, Dutch, Belgians and the Asian hockey power houses India and Pakistan in action.
In the 34th edition of the Champions Trophy, the teams are divided into two groups, from where the top two teams will advance for the semi-finals and the rest will compete for the remaining places 5th-8th. The choices for the semi-final spots seem pretty obvious, keeping in mind the recent performances of the teams who are given quota slots for the tournament.
No group is easy in Champions Trophy, not because there are only eight teams, but because they are the best eight teams and the same goes with Group A. The ‘Group A’ comprises of England, Germany, India and New Zealand, from where the Germany and England are the hot favorites to qualify for the semi-finals.
Germany: London Olympic champion and number one ranked Germany has won this prestigious tournament nine times and the latest they won was in 2007. The Germans are certainly looking to add another gold piece in their showcase. However, they have opted to bring much inexperienced squad for the Champions Trophy, and many players are rested. The team includes four debutants but have enough fire power to win this tournament, in form of experienced Oskar Deecke, Oliver Korn and Moritz Fürste.
England: England had their best performance in 2010 when they finished 2nd in the men’s champions trophy. But since then, many things have changed, and England is now one of the top hockey playing nations in the world, and is a force to reckon with in 2012 Champions Trophy. Just like Germany, England too, is coming with few debutants for the Champions Trophy. Harry Martin of Beeston, Hampstead and goalkeeper George Pinner will play a key factor in England’s challenge for the gold in 2012 Champions Trophy.
New Zealand: New Zealand’s best finish in Champions Trophy is 4th which they got last year on home soil, but the performance of the black sticks hasn’t been convincing since then. The men in black only managed to finish ninth in the London Olympics and in this tournament they are turning up with eight new players, in the quest of making a team for 2016 Olympic Games. Experienced players such as Blair Hopping, Dean Couzins and Phil Burrows will be carrying New Zealand’s hopes. However, the realistic target for the black sticks would be to be in top five for qualifying for the 2014 Champions Trophy.
India: The Asian hockey power house, India have everything to win and nothing to lose in this prestigious tournament. India finished at 12th place in London Olympic Games, the worst campaign ever, so it couldn’t get any worse for them in Champions Trophy. Finishing in top 5, just like New Zealand, will be their realistic target, even though it wouldn’t be a surprise if they finish further down. Indian team landed in Australia without their star drag flicker, Sandeep Singh which means the team will be more dependent on V R Raghunath, Sardar Singh and the goalkeeper P R Sreejesh.
Group B comprises of heavyweights such as Belgium, Netherlands, host Australia and the Asian giants Pakistan. This is a group of death as the top three: Belgium, Netherlands and Australia have equal chance of qualifying for the semi-finals. Pakistan doesn’t look like a better team if one looks at their past performances, but never say never as they may throw a surprise.
Belgium: It will be the first outing for the ‘Red Lions’ in the Champions Trophy, so whatever result they achieve, will be an improvement. However, the 8th ranked nation will be striving hard to ensure that they make their presence memorable in this edition of the Champions Trophy. Playing with the new names such as Alexander Hendrickx, Amaury Keusters and Sébastien Dockier under the leadership of Dutch coach Marc Lammers, Belgium will be a team to watch out for in the forthcoming Champions Trophy.
Australia: There isn’t any need to write about this team, as they are simply the best. Playing on the home ground, home support and the past record, everything is in the favor of the Kookaburras. Fitted with the likes of Jaime Dwyer and youngsters like Trent Mitton, Josh Miller and Tristan White, Australia is a serious contender for the Gold medal.
Netherlands: The Dutch are currently going through a transition phase because of the recent retirements of Teun de Nooijer, Floris Evers and Roderick Weusthof. Even then, the Dutch have enough firepower to storm their way in the Champions Trophy Final. Quirijn Caspers, Floris van der Linden, Seve van Ass are making a comeback, and will have plenty to prove after being left out from the London Olympics silver winning squad.
Pakistan: Pakistan is coming with relatively inexperienced squad in the Champions Trophy and they would be hoping to finish in top 5, which is a tough task to achieve. Defender Muhammad Imran will be leading the Pakistan team, with striker Muhammad Waqas taking the role of vice captain and the team coached by Akhtar Rasool.
It will be interesting to see who will be crowned champion in this edition of Champions Trophy, Australia, Netherlands, Germany or underdogs such as England or Belgium.Published 28 Nov 2012, 23:58 IST