Hockey World Cup 2018: Argentina takes on Spain in battle of heavyweights

While Olympic champion Argentina will look to start its campaign with a bang, Spain, placed eighth in the world, will be eager for a podium finish.

Argetina, studded with accomplished players such as captain Pedro Ibarra, Matias Paredes and Gonzalo Peillat, will play out of its skin to achieve the rare double of being an Olympic and World champion.

The Argentina hockey team was bracketed among the also-rans in major hockey events until it turned the notion on its head by claiming its maiden Olympics medal in the 2016 Rio Games.

Competing in its first World Cup with the prestigious tag of an Olympic champion, Argentina will look to start its campaign with a bang when it meets a formidable Spain in a Pool A contest at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

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The second-ranked Argentina, which secured its best performance and first podium finish by bagging a bronze medal in the World Cup four years ago, gained enough match practice against various opponents, including Australia, Germany, France and Ireland, before landing here.

The team, studded with accomplished players such as captain Pedro Ibarra, Matias Paredes and Gonzalo Peillat, will play out of its skin to achieve the rare double of being an Olympic and World champion.

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Los Leones coach German Orozco acknowledges that his side’s ambitious target will be difficult to achieve. However, the Latin Americans are not averse to taking on pressure situations and playing attacking hockey.

Not overawed by reputation

Spain, placed eighth in the world, understands that the gap between teams in the top 10 is not huge and will not be overawed by Argentina’s reputation.

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Coached by Frenchman Frederic Soyez, the Red Sticks – which has a blend of youth and experience, including Quico Cortes, Sergi Enrique and Pau Quemada – have remained competitive during their preparation period and will be eager to take that tempo into the tournament.

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Spain had stepped on the World Cup podium with a bronze medal in Monchengladbach 12 years ago. It would like to taste success again.

The crowd should get its money’s worth when the two nations, known for their prowess in football, lock horns here.