Hockey World Cup 2018: New World Cup format gets the thumbs up

Crossover matches give every team hope to qualify and a chance to rest.

India coach Harendra Singh supported the format as the presence of more teams provided good rest to the players between matches.   -  getty images

The new-look World Cup, which has accommodated four more countries to make it a 16-team affair and includes crossover matches, has emerged as a more acceptable format despite its quirkiness.

The crossover matches, which will provide a mechanism to second and third placed sides of each pool to reach the quarterfinals even after the direct qualification of the top-ranked team, can provide nervous moments to teams with better World rankings. A slight slip-up in pool matches can adversely affect a side in tight situations.

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Teams like Australia, New Zealand, which managed 2-1 wins in their tournament openers, and England, which had a 2-2 draw against a debutant, China, were on the tenterhooks even after securing points from their first matches.

Providing a break

India coach Harendra Singh, however, offered a different view. “Why not think about topping the pool instead of thinking about the crossovers,” said Harendra.

He, nevertheless, supported the format as the presence of more teams provided good rest to the players between matches.

Belgian captain Thomas Briels agreed. “First time we are playing crossovers in the World Cup… sooner you get into the quarterfinals the better,” said Briels.

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Seasoned coach Roelant Oltmans, who is now helming Malaysia, had no issues. “We know it’s a good format. Every team has an opportunity to come into the second round through crossovers. We have three days (between two pool matches) and that’s a good part of the tournament. You recover and make up your minds,” said Oltmans.

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The legendary Ric Charlesworth also gave the new arrangement a thumbs up. “We should have had 16 teams long time ago. There are a lot of countries which deserve to be in the World Cup.

“This format is very fair. Quarterfinals can be a bit daunting but sometimes when you play a tournament with eight teams with quarterfinals, the round games (in groups) don’t mean anything. Here the round games mean something,” he said.