It is 94 days until the action kicks off in The Hague, so the FIH caught up with two of the heavyweights participating in the Rabobank Hockey World Cup – Germany and Australia – to find out how the teams are feeling with just three months to go.
Australian hopes will be high for medals at the World Cup. The men, who are the reigning World Cup holders, have recently moved to the top of the rankings, leapfrogging Germany, while the women are sitting in fourth place. Adam Commens is the women’s coach, and he spoke to the FIH about the intense preparations his team is going through in the build-up. “After a short break following the World League Finals in Argentina we began 2014 with an early tour to South Africa where we played against South Africa and the Netherlands. It was really worthwhile. We’ve got five Tests coming up against Japan in Western Australia and a six-nations tournament in New Zealand and through those we’ll look at exposing our broader group ahead of World Cup selection and our departure for Europe in mid-May.”
Meanwhile, veteran campaigner Ric Charlesworth, the Kookaburras coach, said he would be selecting his team in a few days time. “With the Hockey India League in action most of our athletes have been competing in that. As a result we have yet to select our World Cup training group, but we’ll be doing that towards the end of the month. We’re very much looking forward to getting all of the squad back together for a solid preparatory phase leading into the World Cup. The Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia in March and two Tests against New Zealand in April are going to be very important elements of our build up, as will a couple of matches once we get to Europe.”
The German men’s team, coached by Markus Weise, are currently ranked number 2 in the world, while the women’s team, led by coach Jamilon Mulders, are at an uncharacteristically low 6th place. But, as all the opposing teams know, when it comes to big tournaments, you can never write off the Germans.
Maximilian Mueller is the men’s captain, and his inspiration for a good performance in The Hague comes from one empty space in his trophy cabinet. “I’m excited about the World Cup, because it´s the only big tournament most of the team haven´t won yet. It is also special that the tournament is so early in the year, so the preparation time is not very long. But we are on our way.”
The German women’s team will have quite a few young players, and captain Julia Muller has been working hard to integrate newcomers into the team. She said: “We have a lot of training camps together and I share lots of ‘oldies’ stories with the younger group about what to expect on and off the pitch. A lot of younger players joined us after the Junior World Cup last year and since then I have tried to build up social bonding within the team.”
The current number one German goalkeeper for the men, Nicolas Jacobi, has been playing in the Hockey India League, and many credited Delhi Waverider’s win in the final to his performance in goal. Max Mueller agrees that the HIL was a good experience for goalkeepers as it meant they got practice at stopping penalty corners from some of the finest players in the world. Despite the rave reviews, Nicolas knows that no-one is yet guaranteed a berth to the World Cup. “I am very excited, but it’s still a long way to go for us. Now we’re going in our final stage of the preparation with many hard training camps to come. The competition for the 18 spots in the team will be tough.”
Moritz Fuerste, FIH Young Player of the Year 2012, has also just returned from India, having played for the Ranchi Rhinos. He says that with just 94 days to go, the German preparations are a little different to other big tournament years. “We are preparing ourselves a bit differently as the World Cup is at such a early stage in the season this year. The fitness will be a big focus but also technical things as there are less days to prepare.”
For Moritz, and many of his teammates, the match they are most looking forward to is against the Netherlands. He said: “I’m looking forward to playing South Africa as we just have only played them once in a tournament, but obviously the biggest game will be when we play Holland in front of their home crowd. I guess that´s what all hockey players dream of and we will be very happy to experience that this year.”
Maike Stöckel, who has played for the women’s team since 2007, agrees. She lives and works in the Netherlands, so the match against the Oranje will have special significance. She is also anticipating an exciting game when Germany takes on Argentina.
Julia Muller added: “We were in Malaysia when I saw that it was only 100 days and I got really excited! I can’t wait to play the World Cup. We are training really hard and I have a good feeling.”
Source and photography: FIH