19:08:2015; In the second of our overviews of the Pools for the Unibet EuroHockey Champions we have a look at the Men’s Pool B, which of course features the current Champions Germany. 

Pool B 

Germany – world number 3

Reigning champions, Germany are out for their third successive title in London off the back of some superb form that has seen Markus Weise’s side win gold at both the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar and the World League semi-final in Argentina.

From the squad for the latter tournament – where a ticket to Rio was confirmed – they have made three changes. The influential Christopher Zeller is injured with a medial meniscus tear and is replaced by UHC Hamburg club mate Marco Miltkau. Timur Oruz steps out with Constantin Staib coming in while there is a reshuffle of goalkeepers with Andreas Spack coming in for Tobias Walter.

Double Olympic champion and co-captain of the team, Moritz Fürste returns to the squad. The German hockey hero had missed the ERGO Hamburg Masters as he had just become a father. He, along with Tobias Hauke and Christopher Ruhr, give the side serious star quality.

And Ruhr says that despite all their previous success, “everyone in the team is still hungry for more success; it doesn’t matter how many medals each of us has won in the past”.

** Click here for the full Christopher Ruhr interview

Belgium – world number 4

Jeroen Delmee will test some new faces in London with young stars like Matthew Cobbaert and Alexander Hendrickx among a couple of eye-catching changes from the side that finished second at the World League semi-final in Antwerp to earn an Olympic place.

Cobbaert is looking to add yet another European medal to his collection, earning silver at Under-16 before landing golds at Under-18 and Under-21 level, saying: “now we hope to get some titles with the senior national team”.

In total, the Belgians have made four switches from that team with the experienced Cedric Charlier and Alex de Paeuw also coming back while there are rare rests for Simon Gougnard and Thomas Briels – missing his first tournament in nine years – while the injured Dorian Thiery and Amaury Keusters also step out.

Silver in 2013; is London 2015 their time to make the breakthrough and win the gold?

** Click here to read full interview with Matthew Cobbaert

Ireland – world number 14

A dangerous prospect for Germany and Belgium, Ireland showed they can mix it with the big boys in recent times. At the World League semi-final, Craig Fulton’s side beat higher ranked Pakistan and Malaysia to finish fifth while they also were tied with the Belgians until withdrawing their goalkeeper in search of a winner and were caught at the far end in the final minute.

That keeper, David Harte, is one of the world’s best and is often central to their chances while Shane O’Donoghue is fast becoming the key man in midfield and he says there is “still a buzz around the squad and the hockey community back home after our 5th finish at the World League.”

They make three changes from that panel, bringing in Jonny Bruton, Matthew Bell and Michael Robson. The green machine’s best previous finish came in 2011 in Monchengladbach when they ended fifth, beating Spain in a dramatic final game. Last time, they were in real danger of relegation before pulling out a big win over the Czech Republic.

** Click here to read the full interview with Shane O’Donoghue

France – world number 17

Rapidly improving France missed out on an Olympic place from the World League semi-final but not before almost causing the shock of the tournament against Belgium, running them to a 5-4 quarter-final scoreline.

As such, they will relish their rematch in the group but, if they are to retain their place in the top tier of the tournament, Saturday morning’s tie with Ireland is probably their key game. Gael Foulard’s side is built around the guts of the Junior World Cup side that reached the final a couple of years ago 15 of their initial panel of 20 players 23 or younger.

The twin towers of Victor Charlet – who provides the corner threat too – and Francois Scheefer bolster the backline while the Genestet brothers provide some much needed experience. Charles Masson – who grew up in Belgium – is a classy operator in midfield and will look to set free Jean-Laurent Kieffer and Gaspard Bamugarten.

Following relegation in 2011, France gained promotion in Vienna two years ago and, with an ambitious mindset, they will look to try and emulate their best ever finish, fourth, from back in 1970.

Stephen Findalter, Freelance Journalist on behalf of EHF

Photograph: Shane O Donoghue, Ireland (Frank Uijlenbroek (c))

TV Listing:

UK and Ireland – BBC (England, Scotland and Irish matches and Finals – BBC red button, BBC2 if England reaches finals)

The Netherlands – NOS (all Dutch games, finals and daily highlights packages)

Germany – Sport 1 (all German matches, men’s final) and ZDF/ARD (highlights package)

Belgium – Telenet (all Belgian matches, semi-finals and finals)

Spain – Teledeporte (all Spanish matches and finals)

France – Ma Chaine (all French matches)

Southern Africa – Supersport (semi-finals and finals)

Star Sports – Qualification games and Finals 

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Event Website – www.eurohockey2015.co.uk

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