Olympic Games Preview: Men’s Pool B.

The Top of the D has already given you a break down of Pool A here. Now, take a look at the contenders for Pool B.

Germany. World Ranking: 2.

Ranked second in the world at present, but they are the reigning Olympic Champions. They finished second in the 2010 World Cup, and fifth in the 2011 Champions Trophy. Their squad for London contains ten players who captured the gold medal in Beijing. Their list is almost like a who’s who of European hockey. Make no mistake; this German side is a genuine medal chance.

Their style is built on an excellent defence, marshalled by Captain Maximilian Muller. Each of their players is comfortable in possession, which means they have no problem holding onto the ball whilst waiting for an opening to appear. Up front they have a wealth of talent and are extremely dangerous from penalty corners.

Players to watch:

Well, where to begin? Moritz Fürste is one of the best players in the world. Elegant, strong, good on the ball, a range of passing and an eye for goal, he has it all. If he hadn’t played during Jamie Dwyer’s career he would have a stack of World Player of the Year awards.

Christopher Zeller too is a standout performer. He is one of the most feared penalty corner specialists in world hockey and will no doubt feature heavily in his side’s quest for gold.

English Hockey League fans will of course notice Martin Häner. The former Germany Under-21 captain spent some time playing for East Grinstead, where he impressed greatly.

Squad: Max Weinhold (GK), Oskar Deecke, Florian Fuchs, Moritz Fürste, Martin Häner, Tobias Hauke, Oliver Korn, Maximilian Müller, Jan-Philipp Rabente, Thilo Stralkowski, Christopher Wesley, Benjamin Wess, Timo Wess, Matthias Witthaus, Christopher Zeller, Philipp Zeller

Stand by: Nicolas Jacobi (GK), Linus Butt.

Netherlands. World ranking: 3.

The huge shock, I suppose from the Oranje selection was the omission of both Taeke Taekema and Jeroen Hertzberger. Takema’s non-selection caused more of a stir due to his standing as one of the greatest of all time. However, Hertzberger, who has enjoyed a fine club season, finishing as top scorer in the EHL, has played every tournament for the Dutch since 2007 and so was perhaps more of a surprise. Don’t be fooled however, they are not exactly lacking in quality. Fourth in Beijing, third in the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Champions Trophy and second in the 2011 European Championships, this is a squad not short on pedigree. They will hope to draw on the experience of the likes of Teun de Nooijer, coupled with the exciting talents of Mink van der Weerden and Roderick Weusthof. This is a side which means business and does not make room for sentiment. Just ask Seve van Ass, the coach’s son, who also didn’t make the cut.

Players to watch:

Teun de Nooijer is one of the greatest players of his generation. A three time World Player of the Year (2003, ‘05 and ‘06), two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal, over 400 international caps, the Bloomendal star has been there and done it. Not many could get away with wearing the coveted number 14 shirt made famous by Johan Cruyff, but De Nooijer has proved time and again he is worthy.

Wouter Jolie is a superb defender, who was included in the 2011 FIH World All Star team. He goes about his business with a quiet authority and is excellent on the ball. He, alongside goalkeeper Jaap Stockman will be the ones keeping things tight at the back.

Roderick Weusthof will take up the responsibility for penalty corners. He has over 50 international goals to his name and was the top scorer in the Hoofdklasse last season with 36 goals; it is the fourth time he has won that award. A threat from penalty corners he certainly is, but that is by no means the only string to his bow.

Squad: Sander Baart, Billy Bakker, Marcel Balkestein, Floris Evers, Rogier Hofman, Robert van der Horst, Wouter Jolie, Robbert Kemperman, Teun de Nooijer, Jaap Stockmann, Valentin Verga, Klaas Vermeulen, Bob de Voogd, Mink van der Weerden, Roderick Weusthof, Sander de Wijn.

Korea. World Ranking: 6.Korea qualified for the Olympics with a last-ditch winner over Ireland in the qualifying tournament. The goal which gave them the 3-2 victory, scored with seconds left on the clock by Lee Nam Yong was originally not given, but was overturned by video referral to book Korea’s place in the Olympics in dramatic fashion. They won a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics, but will be hard pushed to re-create that performance in London this summer. Among their recent performances is a sixth place at the 2010 World Cup, eighth at the Champions Trophy last year and fifth at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in June. A side with a strong work ethic and a good defensive unit, they are perhaps a little lacking in the final third at times. A dangerous opponent if underestimated, however.Players to watch:

Ho Seo Jong is a four-time member of the FIH All Star team, being selected in 2007, ’08, ’09 and 2010. His undoubted quality adds a little something extra to a side with an excellent work ethic.

Up front, Lee Nam Yong finished as top goal scorer in the qualifying tournament with 6 goals, including the winner in the final against Ireland. In a team which sometimes struggles for creativity, his ability up front is essential to their chances.

Squad: 

Jong Bok Cha, Eunseong Hong, Hyesung Hyun, Jong Hyun Jang, Moon Kweon Kang, Moon Kyu Kang, Young Jin Kim, Myung Ho Lee, Nam Yong Lee, Seungil Lee, Hyun Woo Nam, Daekeun Oh, Jongho Seo, Woon Kon Yeo, Sung Hoon Yoon, Hyosik You

Stand by: Sukhoon Cho, Jae Hyeon Kim.

New Zealand. World ranking: 7.

The Blacksticks qualified by virtue of their second place finish in the Oceania Cup, behind Australia. They finished seventh at the 2010 World Cup and fourth at the 2011 Champions Trophy. Perhaps their most impressive recent result is that they won the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament in Malaysia, performing very impressively to defeat a number of the other participants in the Olympics.

A talented side with a smattering of players plying their trade in Holland’s Hoofdklasse they have a definite element of quality in their ranks. Their squad for these games is very experienced too; Dean Couzins, Phil Burrows, Blair Hopping and goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex all compete in their third Olympics. As they proved in their Azlan Shah win, they are capable of winning on a big stage, but can they overcome the traditional powerhouses they so often fall to?

Players to watch:

Nick Wilson is an FIH World All Star, at the tender age of just 21, the Palmerston born striker is a prodigious talent with a terrific goal scoring ability.

HC Rotterdam’s Phil Burrows is capable of conjuring up the most spectacular goals from the most impossible angles and positions. Burrows also has over 250 international caps, and has seen it all before.

Squad: Nick Haig, Andy Hayward, Simon Child, Blair Hopping, Dean Couzins, Blair Hilton, Ryan Archibald, Brad Shaw, Kyle Pontifex, Phil Burrows, Shea McAleese, Stephen Jenness, Richard Petherick, Hugo Inglis, Steve Edwards, Nick Wilson.

Stand by: Hamish McGregor, Arun Panchia.

India. World Ranking: 10.

Having finished third at the Asian Games, India were required to come through an Olympic qualifying tournament, which they did, with considerable ease, beating France 8-1 to book their place at London. India also finished third at the recent Azlan Shah tournament, ahead of Olympic rivals Korea and Pakistan, as well as Great Britain, whom they beat to claim the bronze. A talented group with superb individual skills, India might not be the force they were way back when, but they are an extremely capable group of players. Interestingly they are the only side to name two goalkeepers within their 16.

Players to watch:

Sardar Singh plays centre half and was the youngest ever captain of India during the 2008 Azlan Shah competition, a competition he was named player of the tournament at in 2010 and 2012. He is a current FIH All-Star and won the player of the tournament in the Olympic qualifier. He is a class act, whose achievements in over 100 international appearances speak for themselves.

Sandeep Singh is a vital cog in the Indian machine. A victim of an accidental gunshot in 2006, Sandeep missed the World Cup and spent almost two years recovering from the injury. He has returned to the side to add to his impressive haul of over 100 goals in international hockey. Sandeep scored 16 goals in 6 games in the Olympic qualifier, including five in the final. With a drag flick clocked at over 145k/ph he could easily be one of the stars of the tournament.

Squad: Bharat Chetri, Sardar Singh, Sandeep Singh, VR Ragunath, Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Gurbaj Singh, Shivendra Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Tushar Khandker, SV Sunil, Dharamvir Singh, SK Uthappa, Ignace Tirkey, Gurwinder Singh Chandi, PR Sreejesh.

Stand By: Sarwanjeet Singh and Kothajit Singh.

Belgium. World ranking: 11.

Fourth place in the 2011 European Championships ensured the Belgians made it to London 2012. A steadily improving nation, they won the 2011 Champions Challenge. Beijing was their first Olympics in 32 years and although they only mustered a ninth place finish, they are much better equipped to finish higher than that this time out. With a number of players experiencing the Euro Hockey League the pool of talent is growing all the time.

Players to watch:

Felix Denayer is an FIH All Star. The Dragons star is a superb defender who has been known to chip in with his fair share of goals. He already has over 100 international caps and was a huge factor in his team’s high finish at the European Championships.

Tom Boon is one of the most exciting talents to come out of Belgian hockey. An FIH All Star already and the top goal scorer at the Champions Challenge with 8 goals he has the skills and poacher’s instinct to fire his team to their best ever Olympic finish.

Squad: Gauthier Boccard, Tom Boon, Thomas Briels, Cedric Charlier, Alexandre De Saedeleer, Jérôme Dekeyser, Felix Denayer, John-John Dohmen, Simon Gougnard, Maxime Luycx, Xavier Reckinger, Jeffrey Thys, Jérôme Truyens, Vincent Vanasch, Florent van Aubel, Benjamin Van Hove,

Stand by: Elliot Van Strydonck, Manu Leroy,

The Top of the D will look at the Women’s pools next week.

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