A lesser-known side in the history of the hockey World Cup, France has played twice and finished seventh both times, at Barcelona 1971 and Lahore 1990.
Keeping in mind the 2024 Olympics, which will be held in Paris, France has launched an Ambition 2024 programme for the development of its hockey teams and should play some serious hockey at the Kalinga Stadium.
France, ranked 20th in the world, qualified for the World Cup after taking seventh place in the Johannesburg leg of the Hockey World League and getting some help from favourable results, including New Zealand’s victory over Papua New Guinea, in the Oceania Cup.
The French team, coached by Dutch world and Olympic champion Jeroen Delmee for the last one year, has played several matches and tournaments against higher-ranked teams, including Germany, Argentina and Canada, and has made rapid development. It faced England, a stronger side twice, losing once and winning once.
The Blues did their final preparations for the World Cup between October 30 and November 14, playing matches in South Africa and Belgium.
Delmee, who who was part of the Netherlands Olympic gold medallist sides in 1996 and 2000 and the 1998 World Cup-winning team, has the experience of coaching Belgium. He is taking forward the fine work done by Gael Foulard and grooming youngsters and guiding them on the path of the French Hockey Federation’s goals of seeing the team inside the top 10 at the World Cup and making it an even stronger outfit by the 2024 Olympics.
France, which participated in Olympic qualifiers in Delhi in 2012, has got some experience of playing in India, but that was sometime back and at a different venue. Nevertheless, the side can emerge as one of the party-spoilers for major teams as it will play with a “nothing to lose and everything to gain” attitude.
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