First to put his opinions on show for all to see is James Stock. You can find out all about James and his hockey expertise by reading the Meet the Experts piece posted earlier on. If you’ve already read it, or if you can’t wait to gorge yourself on his expert analysis, then read on!
Netherlands. A home world cup, reigning World League champions, a hockey mad country and the best domestic league in the world. These are just some of the reasons why I firmly believe this is going to be theirs to lose. A team that still holds the fear factor and is capable of awesome and destructive attacking hockey with good recent form in major tournaments, the Dutch are in great shape.
Australia. I think Australia are going to have a sensational tournament. They’re a settled side now with some class performers in their ranks. They are the form team heading into the finals but they will come up against a few obstacles: The Dutch support and a superb Dutch team will be two surmountable objects, however, Jaap Stockmann won’t be. Not for the first time, I think he’ll have a blinder to shut out the Kookaburras and deny them a World Cup win.
Belgium. A strong 2013 was quickly forgotten following a poor start to 2014 with a below-par World League Final display. I’m confident the Belgians will bounce back at this World Cup. One poor tournament does not make a bad side and they were a phenomenal force through the latter stages of 2012 and beyond. This will be this team’s best opportunity to showcase their abilities. As an aside, I also think they’ll miss out on a spot in the final after a shoot-out disappointment in which Jeremy Gucasoff laments the recent rule changes around sticks.
How will England do?
I think they could finish 4th if they can get out of their group, that is. I don’t think they will but if they do manage to make the semi-finals I believe they are going to fall at least one place short of the medals.
Top Goal Scorer:
Chris Ciriello. The Kookaburra’s ability from penalty corners will be a big part of their sensational tournament, a feat more impressive given what’s definitely (probably) going to happen in the final with Jaap Stockmann keeping him at bay. Expect the contest for top goal scorer to be keenly contested, though.
Australia. A truly impressive unit that will go one better than their male counterparts. The Hockeyroos are an in-form team, winning the recent World League tournament. Having scrapped the 2012 Olympics as a ‘peak’ period, they have been building for longer than just about any of the other leading nations, and it’s been showing for the last year or so now. Some great individual players in a team that works hard for each other. They are the team to beat at the tournament.
Netherlands. It was tempting to say the Netherlands were going to compete the clean sweep. You could use all the same reasons that the Dutch men are going to win it to make a case for the Dutch women. However, Australia are a formidable hockey unit across both genders at the moment, and I strongly suspect that they will come out on top for the ladies. No obvious Dutch weaknesses, I just think Australia have the edge. It should make for a captivating final.
3rd Place: England. In spite of a mass exodus of world class players following the London 2012 Olympics, England have simply introduced their next batch of stars. Most notable is Maddie Hinch, who can’t seem to go an international tournament without picking up the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award. A quality side that still only shows glimpses of world domination, they are capable of beating anyone on their day. They just need to make that day last a whole tournament.
How will England do?
I’m still confident of third. Failing that I firmly believe they will finish somewhere else.
Top Goal Scorer: Jodie Kenny. I queried the original team selection by Australia, simply because I’d forgotten Jodie Schulz had got married. Even with the name change she remains phenomenal from penalty corners and I’d back her to pick up a few key goals for her side on the way to World Cup gold.
So there you have it. James has had his say, why not have yours? Leave a comment below, or Tweet me @TheTopoftheD. More experts’ predictions will follow tomorrow.