The 4th Indoor Hockey World Cup is almost upon us! Five action-packed days of elite indoor hockey get underway in Germany tomorrow, with near sell-out crowds flocking to the Arena Leipzig to witness what promises to be a truly magnificent spectacle. But who will come out on top? Defending champions Germany are the favourites in the men’s competition, but numerous high quality sides such as Poland, Russia, the Netherlands and Austria being the front runners to knock the host nation from their perch. Let’s take a look at the teams competing in each pool in the men’s competitions in Leipzig.  The big question is can Europe continue it’s dominance and take all the medals again? Here’s the men’s preview from the FIH:

Men – Pool A

Pool A features reigning champions Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Australia, Iran and debutants Sweden. Host nation Germany (FIH Indoor World Ranking: 1) have claimed all three Indoor World Cups to date are the big favourites to lift the cup once again here in Leipzig. The team includes three Olympic champions, Moritz Fürste, Tobias Hauke and Thilo Stralkowski. “We are looking forward to the tournament start and our first match against Sweden”, said Fürste. Hauke, FIH Player of the Year 2013, recently won the German indoor championship with his Harvestehuder THC, completing the remarkable achievement of owning all four of the available indoor and outdoor titles in both, German and European club hockey. The other two “Tobis”, goalkeeper Tobias Walter and defender Tobias Lietz, were also part of the Harvestehuder team that defeated Rot-Weiss Köln 10-7 in the Berlin final last Sunday.

The three German champions will face two team-mates in pool A when Germany takes on Austria (IWR: 4) on Thursday (5th February). Michael Körper was selected as Player of the Tournament at the German Final Four, while HTHC captain Benjamin Stanzl has represented the club since 2011. Speaking ahead of the Indoor World Cup, Germany captain Tobi Hauke said: “I’m very happy to play them in the group because this way we cannot face them in the quarter-final”. Head coach Stefan Kermas added “We need a learning curve in this tournament and then we will see what’s possible.” The results of the test matches were convincing as the host nation defeated Poland 6-3 and won against Austria 10-4.

Although Germany and Austria are among the favourites in pool A, the Czech Republic (IWR: 5) team contains some exceptionally skilled indoor players and a truly world class goalkeeper in Filip Neusser. They will be giving everything to make it into the quarter-finals. Australia (IWR: 8) are ranked number one in the world outdoors and claimed a 7th place finish at the 2011 Indoor World Cup in Poznan, Poland. It will be interesting to see how the team with the longest journey to Leipzig will perform underneath the roof.

Iran (IWR: 10) made their Indoor World Cup debut in Poznan and collected valuable indoor experience. They will be aiming to improve the 9th place that they achieved in that event. Striker Abbas Aroei scored 11 times in Poznan to finish joint fourth in the tournament scoring list. Sweden (IWR: 17) may be a debut nation, however, their performance level indoors has made huge strides forward in recent years and could well be a surprise package.

Men – Pool B

Pool B sees Poland, Russia, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland and South Africa competing for the four available quarter-final tickets. Poland (IWR: 2) reached the final at all three World Cup editions so far but got always eventually wrestled down by Germany. Russia (IWC: 3) have never won a medal despite having good quality in their team, but reached the top six on the last two occasions and at number 3 in the FIH Indoor World Rankings must not be underestimated.

Russian goalie Roman Rogov plays a record fourth Indoor World Cup, as does Canadian keeper Shankar Premakanthan. The duo were both in action since the first edition here in the Arena Leipzig 12 years ago. Team Canada (IWR: 7) also features the oldest player of the tournament with Ken Pereira being 41 years of age. The Netherlands (IWR: 6) are also a team which cannot be underestimated, especially with skilful players like Teun Rohof and Robert Tigges – who netted 16 times in Poznan four years ago to finish as tournament top scorer – in the squad.

It will be tough for Switzerland (IWR: 11) and South Africa (IWR: 15) to reach the quarters ahead of any of the four previous mentioned teams, but anything can happen over the next few days. The South Africa squad contains a notable personality with renowned international umpire Ayden Shrives being among their ranks. Shrives now finds himself being umpired by the likes of Geoff Conn and Michael Eilmer, who he officiated alongside at last year’s Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge I in Kuantan, Malaysia.

Follow the action! 

Website: Full coverage of the events will be available via www.fih.ch with live streaming of key matches from the quarter-final stage being available in most territories.

You Tube: The FIH You Tube channel will become active from the quarter-finals, with match highlights and much more being posted as soon as they become available. To visit our You Tube channel, click the link below:www.youtube.com/fihockey

Social media: FIH will provide comprehensive coverage of the event via our social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Facebook: facebook.com/fihockey

Instagram: instagram.com/fihockey

Twitter: twitter.com/fih_hockey

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Indoor World Cup Medalists

Men

Leipzig 2003: GOLD: Germany. SILVER: Poland. BRONZE: France

Vienna 2007: GOLD: Germany. SILVER: Poland. BRONZE: Spain

Poznan 2011: GOLD: Germany. SILVER: Poland. BRONZE: Austria

Source: FIH.CH

Photograph: 2011 game Poland v Germany ( Frank Uijlenbroek (c))