With the men’s and women’s competitions running side by side in Boom this next nine days the Eurohockey Championships promises to be a spectacular display of top class hockey. Having already looked at the runners and riders in the Women’s competition it is now the turn of the men. Today, we start with the group of death, Pool A.
The reigning Olympic and European champions come into the competition in typically imperious form. They won the World League Semi Final in Malaysia, seeing off a very determined Argentina in the final and in the process, secured World Cup qualification. They followed that up by winning the Hamburg Masters on goal difference, which included a 6-1 humbling of England along the way. Germany have the knack of winning big tournaments. They will often do just enough in the early going and then hit their stride at the business end of the competition. That’s exactly what they did in the Olympics, where they wound up with a gold medal for their efforts. They seem to have a conveyor belt of quality players coming through with some up and coming stars adding to, rather than diluting the talent in the group. Undoubtedly this is a very tough Pool with Spain a danger and Belgium the form side in world hockey, but Germany will fear no one.
Best Finish: Winners, seven times. (1970, ’78, ‘91, ‘95, ‘99, ‘03,’11)
Last Eurohockey Tournament: Winners 2011.
Player to watch: Moritz Furste. Furste is the reigning FIH World Player of the Year. A powerful yet graceful player with no little skill and a keen eye for goal the German captain has been there and done it: Two Olympic Gold medals, a World Cup Winner, three EHL titles, A Eurohockey Nations title and even a Hockey India League Winner. His roll of honour would make even the most decorated player green with envy. Furste is a class act who makes his team tick.
Ah Spain. The great enigma. A team packed with exciting, top quality attacking players. They are a team who can beat anyone in the world if they are in the mood. And yet, they are wildly inconsistent, meaning they can at times look uninterested and lose to even the most limited of sides. When Spain gets it right, they are a real pleasure to watch. They have enjoyed recent success winning this competition in 2005 and finishing second in the 2011 Champions Trophy, so there is no doubt the talent is there, however they endured a disappointing World League Tournament in Holland, finishing fifth behind, amongst other teams, Pool A rivals Belgium. If they are in the mood, they could produce another spectacular tournament. They have to get out of a very tough group, first.
Best Finish: Winners, Twice. (1974, 2005.)
Last Eurohockey Tournament: 6th (2011)
Player to watch: David Alegre. A veteran of over 200 international caps, Alegre has an Olympic silver medal from Beijing to his name as well as Champions Trophy and Eurohockey Championships Gold from 2004 and 2005 respectively. Still only 29 Alegre is a midfielder by trade but scores his share of goals too, finishing as his team’s top scorer in Rotterdam in June.
What can you say about Belgium? The form team in World Hockey at the moment, their World ranking simply does not do them justice. They are exciting side with a plethora of players able to produce something special and turn a game in an instant. Their squad is young in years but anything but inexperienced, with a number of their squad approaching or over the 100 caps mark. They finished fifth at London 2012, despite going into the competition as one of the lowest ranked sides. Perhaps more impressive was their victory in the World League semi-final in Rotterdam, where they finished above Australia, The Netherlands and New Zealand, all ranked higher than the Red Dragons in the world. No mean feat in anyone’s book. With a home crowd and the talent they have in the squad this could well be their year.
Best Finish: 3rd (2007)
Last Eurohockey Tournament: 4th (2011)
Player to watch: Tom Boon. 23 years of age, with over 100 caps to his name, Boon is already a star of World Hockey. Boon is an excellent penalty corner option, but also capable of scoring outrageous goals from open play. He scored five goals at the London Olympics and equalled that feat at the World League in June. If Boon is firing, Belgium will be tough to stop.
The Czechs can consider themselves very unlucky to have been drawn in this group. Fellow minnows Poland will have been thanking their lucky stars they are in the other pool. The task facing the Czechs looks almost impossible as they have to overcome three top quality sides just to make the semi-finals. I think their best hope is that they can get a shock result and draw with or defeat one of the big guns in the pool. Don’t hold your breath however. It is a tall order.
Best Finish: 8th (2007)
Last Eurohockey Tournament: 8th (2007)
Player to watch: Filip Neusser. Fans of English hockey will no doubt have seen the giant goalkeeper turning out for East Grinstead in the Maxifuel Super Sixes last season, where he was one of the competition’s standout players. Lightning quick, agile and dominant in his D, Neusser can genuinely claim to be one of the top goalkeepers in the world. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to show his skills as I suspect his team will spend the majority of their time defending.
Pool A promises to be an intriguing group with at least one big hitter set to fall by the wayside. If you would like to find out more about the competition, visit the official website here.
Pool B will be previewed this afternoon.