Germany in line for a hat-trick

Matthias Witthaus will orchestrate the German attack in New Delhi.-

Although Germany was beaten by England in the final of the European Championships in Amsterdam last August, and more recently by Australia in the final of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, it is still the most consistent side, writes Susan Edghill.

Germany is the reigning World and Olympic Champion. Aiming for its third World Championship title in a row, coach Markus Weise will be looking for the same competitiveness from his team as it has shown since Beijing. Although Germany was beaten by England in the final of the European Championships in Amsterdam last August, and more recently by Australia in the final of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, it is still the most consistent side.

No surprise that Germany’s club sides do well in the Euro Hockey League. With the likes of Max Muller and Moritz Furste in defence and strikers Jan-Marco Montag and Matthias Witthaus, along with the man of the final of the gold medal-winning Junior World Cup side, Florian Fuchs, goals are assured.

Fuchs, 18, is the youngest player at the World Cup this year, and judging by his performances at the international level so far, he will give the opposition defences much to think about. With the strong strike force it has, Germany must surely be considered the best threat to the Australian dream of a second World Cup.

The Netherlands coach, Michel van den Heuvel, has opted for a mixture of youth and experience in his squad. With poorer than expected results since losing out to Germany in the Olympic semifinals, and a knee injury to former Scottish international turned Dutchman, Laurence Docherty, the Netherlands is still searching for the new Jeroen Delmee.

Over half the squad comes from Amsterdam and Bloemendaal and includes three relatively new players, the captain from the silver medal-winning Junior World Cup side, Klaas Vermeulen and player, Billy Bakker, both having full international experience at the recent Champions Trophy. Their youth, combined with the enthusiasm of all the newcomers to show they are worthy of their place may be just what the Netherlands needs to back up its veteran captain Teun de Nooijer and penalty corner striker Taeke Taekema. Whilst these two are around the Dutch will still be a side to be reckoned with in any competition.

Spain’s silver at the Champions Trophy and then the Olympics meant 2008 was a good year for the team, but it didn’t have the best of years in 2009. Spain lost out to the Netherlands in the bronze medal match in Amsterdam and then had to beat England in the final game in Melbourne to ensure 5th place. However, it has started well in 2010 with good results in the warm-up matches against England, Holland and Germany.

Spain only has a small pool of players to choose from but in Pau Quemeda it has a deadly penalty corner scorer. Ed Tubau and Xavier Ribas are also names frequently on the score sheet. The team will be without one of its stars, Santi Freixa, still out injured. However, with a player of Pol Amat’s ability — he can single-handedly run rings around the opposition — and the youngster Xavier Lleonart Blanco in the team, Spain may be the dark horses.

Finally to England which took the European Championships for the very first time last year and played some much admired hockey. Since then, however, its results have been much poorer.

Coach Jason Lee has always said, however, that last year was the build-up to the World Cup. England finished last at the Champions Trophy and recent games against Spain have also gone against it. The team did, though, take the scalp of the Dutch in its final warm-up game.

In Ashley Jackson, England has the World Young Player of the Year. Now 22 his performance has improved immensely since plying his trade in Holland and he is a deadly striker of penalty corners. At the winter break in Holland he is the leading goal-scorer in the Dutch league and has helped put his side, HGC, at the top of the table.

In defence England has the goalkeeper of the Europeans in James Fair and another penalty corner striker, Richard Mantell. Added to that ‘veteran’ at 26, skipper Barry Middleton, who is highly rated in Holland where he and Jackson play their hockey. If England can recreate the form it showed last August and be free from injury and sickness, it could surprise many onlookers yet.

(The writer is a committee member, Hockey Writers Club, UK)