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Men's Hockey Pro League 2020: 3 teams which can win the title

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:08 IST

Germany v Australia - Men
Germany v Australia - Men's FIH Field Hockey Pro League

Good crowds, a great atmosphere, and some consistently entertaining and high-class hockey - the inaugural Pro League season, which featured eight top teams in action, has set the ball rolling and things can only get better from here on.

Pakistan's early suspension was a sour point, and a few feathers were ruffled in a Dutch camp caught between club and country - but it would be fair to say that FIH's most ambitious brainchild yet has managed to capture the attention of the hockey world.

India was the missing link - and when Manpreet Singh and co. take the field against the Netherlands at the sprawling Kalinga Stadium on January 18, the Odisha crowds are sure to make the Pro League 2020 opener an occasion to remember.

In 2018, the Indian men rose up the ranking ladder following a stupendous show in the Champions Trophy - and the performance at Breda was proof enough that India was good enough to take on the best in the business.

A narrow defeat against the Netherlands ended India's encouraging World Cup campaign but Bhubaneswar - and, indeed the rest of India, will be hoping for a change of script when Max Caldas' team touch down in the city for the first time since Odisha 2018.

Given the fact that the Indians did not play the gruelling Pro League in 2019 - and are therefore unfamiliar with many of the demands of the six-month-long competition, it would be tricky to predict where they could finally end up.

The Pro League is a competition with scarce room for let-ups, but arguably does favour the better team allowing for the odd bad day in the office.

The New Zealand Black Sticks were not particularly competitive in the first edition but will look to come back strongly in the second - while Spain, who very nearly perfected the art of shoot out wins earlier this year will begin 2020 against a German side which has looked insipid for the most part.

Argentina will be looking to solve the Gonzalo Peillat riddle and hope to score a few more from open play while Great Britain, who made it to the Grand Final will fancy a repeat next season.

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While there are no pushovers in a tournament of this nature, three talented teams have in recent times displayed the grit, determination, and resolve to rule the world of hockey.

We take a look at 3 teams who begin as the favourites ahead of Pro League 2020.


#3 The Netherlands

The Netherlands - chasing the elusive gold
The Netherlands - chasing the elusive gold

A draw against India ended Holland's chances of a possible triumph in the last edition of the Champions Trophy in 2018.

The Dutch failed to make the final at Breda - but did make it to the summit clash of the World Cup after beating the Indians in the quarterfinals.

The semifinal win against Australia was particularly memorable given the manner in which Caldas' side attacked the kookaburras relentlessly and fearlessly - after having resorted to some staunch possession play against India.

The ability of the Dutch to change gears as and when needed is a trait that sets them apart - and was visible in the Pro League as well, where the think-tank rotated the team like never before.

A loss to Belgium in the all-important semifinals meant that the Netherlands had to settle for bronze earlier this year, but proved time and again that they were second to none with emphatic wins over the World Champions.

A resounding 4-0 win against the Belgians in the league stages was one to remember and the Antwerp encounter is one that should inspire the World Cup silver medalists to go all the way in Pro League 2020.




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Published 24 Nov 2019, 17:00 IST
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