It’s our usual Motivational Monday slot and with one week to go it’s time we had a look at the European teams competing in Raipur. With half the teams coming from Europe, we are certainly very well represented at the Hockey World League Finals and very motivated to support our teams, all currently on route to Raipur. 

The Netherlands:

First up it’s The Netherlands – or ‘Oranje’ as they are known, under the very talented Coach: “All of the players selected have been involved in tournaments in recent years. In this period, the emphasis is less on the team and more on individual development. Of course this year was about qualifying for Rio, but we go to India with a clear objective to win this tournament.” 

2013 was a disappointing year for Netherlands (FIH World Ranking: 2), the Olympic silver medalists from London 2012, but 2014 saw Oranje return to form in style. The year started with a stunning performance at the Hero Hockey World League Final, where they took the title by beating New Zealand 7-2 in the gold medal match. 

The result sent out a strong message that they were serious contenders to claim a home victory at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, where they performed brilliantly to reach the final before being forced to settle for the silver medal as Australia’s Kookaburras claimed their second successive world crown with a dazzling 6-1 triumph. 

In 2015, the influence of Max Caldas – the Buenos Aires born former Argentina international who between 2012 and 2014 guided the Netherlands women Olympic, World Cup and World League glory – has been clear for all to see, with the team sealing their place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with a third place finish in the ARG HWL Semi-Final in Buenos Aires before winning the Unibet EuroHockey Championships with an emphatic 6-1 final victory over Olympic Champions Germany.

The Netherlands squad selected for Raipur contains a glittering array of world class talent including midfield dynamo Robert van der Horst, quick-silver striker Jeroen Hertzberger and skillful playmaker Billy Bakker, while powerhouse defender Mink van der Weerden is arguably the best penalty corner flicker in the world. In-form and with plenty of firepower, they could be the team to beat in Raipur.

Key Player: Robert van der Horst. Team captain Van der Horst is a central figure in the Dutch line-up thanks to his energy, skill and vision. This brilliant midfielder played an instrumental role in helping the Netherlands to claim both the silver medal at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup and their stunning gold medal success in August’s Unibet EuroHockey Championships. The 31-year-old is one of the most experienced players in the Dutch line-up, having made well over 200 international appearances.

Germany: 

Although Germany lost the Unibet EuroHockey Championships this year to The Netherlands, they are one  of the undisputed giants of global hockey, Germany (FIH World Ranking: 3) have been a powerhouse of the game
 for decades and the current group is certainly no different. 

They are the holders of the Olympic and Champions Trophy titles and are always capable of winning every tournament that they enter. 

2014 was far less successful than Head Coach Markus Weise would have hoped, with a seventh place finish at the Hero Hockey World League Final being followed by an even more surprising sixth place finish at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague. 

However, any conversations about the demise Germany’s “golden generation” were halted at the end of that year when they returned to form by winning the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar, India. 

The team continued their good form in 2015 by winning the Argentina Hockey World League Semi-Final in Buenos Aires, although a 6-1 hammering at the hands of the Netherlands in the final of August’s Unibet EuroHockey Championships showed that they are certainly not faultless. That said, with some of the most gifted players in the game available for selection, it would be foolish to write them off on the basis of one bad day at the office. 

The current training squad for Raipur includes two winners of the FIH Men’s Player 
of the Year Award, with Tobias Hauke (2013) and Moritz Fürste (2012) being rated among the very best midfielders in the game. 

22-year-old attacker Christopher Rühr, the FIH Young Player of the Year for 2013, has already proven himself to be an explosive game-changer with a very bright future ahead of him, while fellow striker Florian Fuchs, the 2012 winner of the FIH Young Player of the Year, is one of the best finishers in the game. 

Germany will be considered amongst the favourites in Raipur and will have high hopes of becoming Olympic champions for a third time in succession at Rio 2016. They are of course under a new Coach  Valentine Altenburg, who has recently stepped into the big boots of Markus Weise. 

Great Britain: 

Following their fourth place finish at the London 2012 Olympics, Great Britain (FIH World Ranking based as England: 4) have set their sights firmly on winning a medal at Rio 2016. Looking at their recent history, you certainly wouldn’t bet against them.

There has been a steady improvement since their disappointing ninth place finish at the Athens 2004 Games, with the team taking fifth at Beijing 2008 before losing the Bronze medal match at London 2012 against Australia’s Kookaburras.

The team coached by ex-England & GB striker Bobby Crutchley sealed tickets to Rio and Raipur – the host city of the Hero Hockey World League (HWL) Final – with a third place finish at the FINTRO HWL Semi-Final in Antwerp, Belgium, with Ali Brogdon, Chris Griffiths, Ashley Jackson, Adam Dixon and Barry Middleton all on target as Brits claimed a 5-1 win over India.

Although many see midfield ace Jackson as Great Britain’s star player, there are numerous other top class internationals in the current group to keep a close eye on.

Middleton, the team’s captain and attacking focal point, has over 350 combined England and GB caps under his belt and is a hugely influential figure both on and off the field.

Having represented Great Britain at the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics, Middleton’s vast experience is crucially important as the team builds towards Rio 2016.

Defender Iain Lewers was a star player at the FINTRO HWL Semi-Final in Antwerp, while Adam Dixon and Nick Catlin are both consistently excellent performers on the international stage.

Key player: Ashley Jackson. Alongside Middleton, this 28-year-old midfielder is one of Great Britain’s most gifted hockey players. He possesses fantastic stick skills, a terrific eye for a pass and is one of the finest penalty corner drag-flickers in the game. As always, Jackson is expected to be one of the stars of the show in Raipur.

Notable honours
2x Olympic Gold medallists (1920, 1988)
Olympic Silver medallists (1948)
2x Olympic Bronze medallists (1952, 1984)
FIH Champions Trophy Silver medallists (1985)
2x FIH Champions Trophy Bronze medallists (1978, 1984)
3rd place – FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final, Antwerp (2015)

Additional information: Great Britain’s athletes are up there with the fittest sportspeople around. Typically, members of both the men’s and women’s squads are put through their paces on the hockey pitch at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre (approx. 30 miles / 48 kilomtres west of London) for at least 12 hours a week. This is supported by a minimum of two gym sessions a week in the athletes’ gym, a top facility run by the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and accessible only to elite athletes. On top of these team training sessions, GB hockey athletes also undertake individual training on the hockey pitch and in the gym almost every day.

Belgium:

Belgium (FIH World Ranking: 7) have made huge strides forward over the past ten years and are now rated as one of the most feared attacking sides on the planet.

They produced some excellent performances last year’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, but just missed out on 
a place in the competition semi-finals when they fell to a narrow defeat at the hands of England.

Still, their fifth place finish at that event was their best ever at a World Cup, setting another milestone in the development of a gifted group
 of players that have yet to reach their full potential.

The squad that competed in July’s FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Antwerp, Belgium, contained ten players that had surpassed the 100 international appearances mark, including double centurions John-John Dohmen, Jerome Truyens and Thomas Briels.

Despite their vast on-field experience, the fact that the squad did not contain a single player over the age of 27 provided evidence that this group is likely to remain together for many years to come.

A fifth place finish at the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 was a big disappointment for the team, but they are widely expected to be one of the frontrunners for the Hero Hockey World League title in Raipur.

Nickname: Red Lions

Key player: John-John Dohmen. A classy, creative midfielder who rarely puts a foot wrong, the 27-year-old Belgian captain is currently at the peak of his powers. Named Player of the Tournament at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final, Dohmen is certain to be a massively influential figure for his team in Raipur.

Notable honours
Olympic Bronze medallists (1920)
EuroHockey Nations Championships Silver medallists (2013)
EuroHockey Nations Championships Bronze medallists (2007)
5th place – Olympic Games (2012)
5th place – Rabobank Hockey World Cup (2014)
5th place – Hero Hockey Champions Trophy (2014)

Additional information: The Royal Belgian Hockey Federation (KBHB-ARBH) recently named New Zealander Shane McLeod as the new Head Coach of the men’s national team. McLeod replaces Dutchman Jeroen Delmee, the former Netherlands international defender and double Olympic Gold medallist (Atlanta 1996 & Sydney 2000) who stepped away from the position at the end of September. McLeod – who has enjoyed spells coaching the New Zealand men’s and women’s teams as well as guiding Antwerp’s Waterloo Ducks to consecutive Belgian league titles in 2013 and 2014 – has been given the task of guiding the Red Lions to a podium finish at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.