‘D’ is for death
History lies heavy on the shoulders of the teams in Pool D. Three of the four — Germany, the Netherlands and Pakistan – have won nine of the 13 World Cups held till date.
Fourtime champion Pakistan has been going through a bleak period in recent times. It stuttered in qualifying, but managed to finish seventh in the Hockey World League Semifinals in London.
After days of uncertainty over its participation owing to financial difficulties, the Pakistan hockey team is finally making the trip. The team’s new sponsor, Haier Pakistan, released nine million Pakistani rupees to cover the team’s expenses in the tournament.
The Netherlands, the runnerup in 2014, will be the favourite to top the pool with its wellbalanced side coached by Max Caldas, who has guided the Dutch women’s team to three World Cup titles. The match against Germany will be the biggest test for the Oranje, which is aiming for a fourth World Cup title. The European neighbours have faced each other in the World Cup nine times, with Germany winning thrice and the Netherlands on two occasions. But Germany has won four of their past five encounters.
Despite a superior win record against all the teams in its pool, twotime champion Germany has had a series of underwhelming results in the past two years. It will look for a topplace finish in its group to avoid a possible crossover clash with Belgium — the eight teams finishing second and third in their groups will vie for the remaining quarterfinal spots — after suffering two humiliating losses to it in the World Hockey League finals and the European Championships.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s rising stature as an Asian powerhouse has been evident since the 2017 Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg, where it beat higherranked India in the quarterfinals to secure a place in the World Cup.
A silver medal at the 201■ Asian Games followed by third in the recently concluded Asian Champions Trophy makes Malaysia Pool D’s wild card. With worldclass finishers Razie Rahim and Faizal Saari in the team, Roelant Oltmans’ men are capable of causing major upsets.
With the second and thirdplaced teams taking on the third and secondplaced teams from Pool C, respectively, a meeting between archrivals India and Pakistan and a replay of the European Championships final between Netherlands and Belgium are both possible.
Aiming for the top: Despite a superior win record against all the teams in its pool, twotime champion Germany has had a series of underwhelming results in the past two years.