The title contention game looks strong as we enter the 15th edition of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup.

The 15th edition of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup will commence on the coming January 13, with Argentina and South Africa starting it all off at the Kalinga Stadium. Entering the tournament, we have quite a lot of strong contenders who could lift it again. Belgium became only the sixth men’s team ever to win a Hockey World Cup last time out. Will we have any more new champions? Or is it going to be the big boys again? Let’s have a lot.

5. Germany

Germany will enter the competition with a relatively more experienced squad than the others. In the ongoing Pro League, they are standing third. The previous time they finished fourth. At the Tokyo Olympics, they lost the bronze medal to India. And in the 2018 edition, they lost the Quarterfinal to the eventual champions and ended up fifth.

The Germans have a rich hockey history with significant achievements in the previous century as well. Under head coach Eric Langner, they will vie to add a third World Cup trophy to their cabinet – having previously won it in 2002 and 2006. Players like Christopher Rühr would fire to their upbeat form right now.

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4. India

It often comes as a surprise that a country with rich Hockey history like India has only ever won the Men’s World Cup once. It gets even more staggering to think that their last top-five finish was in 1994.

A lot has changed in the world since India last claimed the title in 1975, especially in the sporting scenario where Cricket has become the unofficial national game. But hockey has only gone down.

Under coach Graham Reid, the Men in Blue have had a few good recent outings at the international stage, with Asia Cup Bronze, Tokyo Olympic Bronze, Birmingham Commonwealth Silver and third place in the Pro League to show for it. This will be the second successive edition that India will be hosting and the team’s recent success has emboldened expectations. In very welcome news, midfielder Vivek Sagar Prasad is making a return to the team after missing out on the Australian tour and Pro League due to an ankle injury.

The Harmanpreet Singh-led side is surely touted to end India’s 47-year-old World Cup medal drought.

3. Netherlands

Though the Dutch have won the Men’s Hockey World Cup thrice in their history, they haven’t won it in the 21st century. The closest they came was the sudden death in the last edition’s final against Belgium. The miss from Jeroen Hertzberger ended it all for them. They have been the runner-up for the last two World Cups. One can say that the story of the Netherlands’ men’s hockey team is similar to that of their football counterparts. Both hold the record for the most final losses in World Cup history.

Under head coach Jeroen Delmee, they’ll go again. They are among the top contenders to lift the Ultimate Hockey-only Cup and equalise Pakistan in terms of World Cups.

2. Belgium

When Hertzberger missed that penalty, Belgium became the sixth-ever Hockey champion. Parallels with football can be drawn again as it wasn’t until that time that Belgium was a true contender. They have enjoyed top ranking in large ranges since then. They are also the defending Olympic champions currently.

1. Australia

Fair to say that the current FIH top-rank holder Australia is the toughest contender in the tournament. The three times champions hold the best winning and goalscoring record in the 48 years of the World Cup. Out of 92 matches they played, they won 69 with a winning percentage of 75. Their average of scoring 3.31 goals per game sees them at the top of the goalscoring chart by quite a distance.

The Kookaburras lifted their first title in 1986. They added to their cabinet in 2010 and 2014. Their last outing at the World Cup saw dominant victories against China (11-0) and England (8-1). They lost out to the Netherlands in the quarterfinal and secured the bronze medal with that victory over the Brits. When they will be out at Bhubaneswar one more time, they too will be looking to equalise Pakistan for the joint most number of Men’s Hockey World Cup trophies.

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