Hockey World Cup 2018: Thrills aplenty ahead in Pool A

World No. 2 Argentina is the favourite in Pool A of the Hockey World Cup 2018, but Spain and New Zealand are strong teams in their own right. Added to the mix is France, which may look to be the weakest of the four but is grooming a team with the 2024 Paris Olympics in mind.

Argentina sprung a surprise two years ago in Rio de Janeiro by breaking pattern and winning its maiden Olympic gold medal.   -  AFP

With three teams ranked in the top 10 in the world, Group A promises plenty of thrills in Bhubaneswar.

Argentina, the world No. 2, has made huge improvement in recent years and has forced the world to take note of its potential by claiming the bronze medal in the previous edition of the World Cup at the Hague and its maiden Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.

The side, comprising several accomplished players such as Pedro Ibarra, Gonzalo Peillat, Matias Paredes and Lucas Vila, has the know-how and hunger to achieve the rare tag of being a World and Olympic champion before several experienced members hang up their sticks.

Spain and New Zealand — the Red Sticks and the Black Sticks and ranked eighth and ninth, respectively — have it in them to beat the best on their day.

Spain, the host of the first edition of the World Cup and a three-time podium finisher, is going through a period of transition and will present a mix of young and experienced players. Backed by a sound system, it is not only capable of making it to the quarterfinals, but also of medalling.

New Zealand, ranked just below Spain, has always been an underdog in world hockey despite an Olympic gold medal in 1976. It will try to erase the forgettable performances of the past and make its mark in the elite event.

France may look to be the weakest of the teams in the group because of its world No. 20 status and obscure history in field hockey. However, keeping the 2024 Paris Olympics in mind, the country has provided a boost to its hockey team in the last year. With a lot of exposure against the top sides in the world, France has made rapid strides and may spring some surprises.