Hockey World Cup 2018: Netherlands a strong contender

Despite narrowly missing out on a place in the Champions Trophy final in July, the Netherlands’ unique brand of high-pressing hockey makes it a favourite in any international tournament.

Striker Jeroen Hertzberger (centre) is just six shy of 100 international goals.   -  Getty Images

When the Netherlands entered the 2014 World Cup final at home at the Hague, it looked set to lift the title for the fourth time. But the match turned out to be nightmare for Paul van Ass’ men as Australia handed them a 6-1 drubbing to take home its third World Cup title.

The Oranje have been a strong title contender in every World Cup, having reached the final six times and finishing third twice. Despite narrowly missing out on a place in the Champions Trophy final in July, the Netherlands’ unique brand of high-pressing hockey makes it a favourite in any international tournament.

Head coach Max Caldas has gone with experience, with 10 of the 18-member squad having more than 100 international caps each. Four of its veterans have scored more than 50 times in international games — Mirco Pruyser with 51, Billy Bakker 54, Mink van der Weerden 85, while striker Jeroen Hertzberger is just six shy of 100.

But the side received a huge blow when drag-flicker Floris Wortelboer suffered a shoulder injury during the Netherlands’ four-nation tournament match against Spain in October, and Junior World Cup star Jorrit Croon has been called up in his stead.

However, the midfielder may only be used sparingly after Caldas remarked that the youngster’s “head is fighting between tricks and playing adult hockey.” There are also concerns over key defender Lars Balk’s fitness; he was forced to sit out of the Netherlands’ preparatory matches due to a hamstring injury.

The Billy Bakker-led team will start its World Cup campaign against dark horse Malaysia on December 1, followed by matches against Germany and Pakistan, which it has faced thrice in World Cup finals.

Squad: Seve van Ass, Sander Baart, Billy Bakker, Lars Balk, Pirmin Blaak, Thierry Brinkman, Thijs van Dam, Jonas de Geus, Jeroen Hertzberger, Robbert Kemperman, Mirco Pruyser, Glenn Schuurman, Sam van der Ven, Valentin Verga, Bob de Voogd, Mink van der Weerden, Sander de Wijn, Floris Wortelboer and Jorrit Croon.