World Cup 2014 Experts’ Predictions: The Top of the D.

Having persuaded three other luminaries of the hockey world to show their hand first in the Hockey World Cup predictions stakes, it is only fair that I too, come up with something. Long time readers of the site will know this is highly out of character for me thanks in part to an uncanny knack of jinxing anyone I back in sporting contests and in part due to my reluctance to open myself up to merciless taunting for my inevitably wrong predictions. Anyway, enough of that. Read on for a first on this site as I nail my colours to the mast.

Men’s Competition.

1st place.TriFinance EuroHockey Championship 2013
It is hard to look beyond the host nation. The Netherlands team reads like a who’s who of World Hockey. In Jaap Stockmann they have arguably the best goalkeeper around, in captain Robert van der Horst they have one of the best players in the world, up front are the likes of Jeroen Hertzberger and rising star Jelle Galema, it is fair to say their squad is packed with top class talent. That’s before you even mention the penalty corner threat of Mink van der Weerden. The Oranje Zwart man is probably the best exponent of the drag flick in world hockey at the moment. If the Dutch win corners, he will score plenty of goals. They have goal threats all over the pitch, a strong defence and goalkeeper and of course the backing of the fanatical home fans.

2nd place.
Having come through a tough group I still think Australia will have enough left in the tank to squeeze past whoever they play in the semi-final, most likely Germany to take their place in the final. With Chris Ciriello firing on all cylinders from penalty corners and Jamie Dwyer still a class act, the Kookaburras will take some stopping. Sadly for them, I think that stopping will come at the final hurdle where a rampant Dutch side will delight the home crowd and force Ric Charlesworth’s side to settle for silver.

3rd place.140525 ENG AUS 03
I’m plumping for England to collect a bronze medal. Their group is very tough and Australia, Belgium, Spain and even India and Malaysia can cause them plenty of problems during the pool stage. However, as they did in the World League Final, I have a feeling England will go on a run and pick up momentum as the tournament wears on. Big performances from goalkeeper George Pinner, and the attacking threats of Barry Middleton, Ashley Jackson and Nick Catlin, backed by a strong defensive effort will I think carry Bobby Crutchley’s boys to the semi finals where the Dutch will spoil the party. Then, England will pick themselves up to edge out an equally despondent Germany in the bronze medal match.

Men’s top scorer:
No great surprise but I’m backing Mink van der Weerden to take this one. The pace, deception and accuracy of his penalty corners are second to none and that will be reflected in his goal tally.

Women’s Competition.

1st Place.TriFinance EuroHockey Championship 2013
My choice for the gold medal is England. Having finally overcome the psychological barrier of beating the likes of Argentina and The Netherlands in recent tournaments I feel like this could be another great tournament for Jason Lee’s side. With Maddie Hinch once again showing the world her considerable talent in goal, right through to the outstanding Alex Danson leading the forward line I have a feeling the competition will bring out the best in the whole squad. They have struggled of late against Australia, but this time i think they will finally put their Ashes hoodoo to rest and beat the Hockeyroos via a Maddie Hinch inspired shootout in the final. A man can dream, can’t he?

2nd Place.
I have a real feeling about Australia to do well in the women’s competition. Adam Commens has done a phenomenal job transforming them from also rans to a real world power once more. Their two penalty corner options, Anna Flanagan and Jodie Kenny give them a real advantage over the rest. Casey Eastham and Madonna Blyth are as good as there are in world hockey and the likes of Karri McMahon and ever-smiling Edwina Bone have really taken to international hockey. It is a very well balanced squad which has been steadily improving with each international tournament and I think they will go all the way to the final. They will come up just short against England, though. I hope.

3rd Place.
I think it’ll be an ultimately disappointing outcome for the host nation. They’ll come through the pool courtesy of Maartje Paumen’s penalty corner goals and the excellence of Naomi van As, who is freshly returned from injury. There’ll be a case of deja vu in the semi-final as England dump the hosts out as they did in the Eurohockey Nations. The Dutch will recover enough to pick up the bronze medal with a hard-fought win over Argentina.

Investec World League Semi Final - LondonWomen’s top scorer:
I think it’ll be a close run thing for the top scorer award. Jodie Kenny and Maartje Paumen will be up there by virtue of their penalty corner goals, but I’m backing Alex Danson to come up trumps and steal the show. Partisan? Me?

There you have it. For the first time in history, The Top of the D publicly commits to predictions before a tournament. Please go easy with your ridicule when I am proved to be horribly wrong. Let’s wait and see how the other three hockey experts and I fare when the tournament is all said and done in mid-June.

Why not have your say? Leave a comment below, or tweet me

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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