Canada’s men’s field hockey team is off to India today with only one week to go before the start of the final competition of the year.
The 2015 International Hockey Federation World League Final takes place in Raipur from November 27 to December 6, with Canada – ranked thirteenth – competing against seven of the top eight ranked teams in the world.
In Pool A, Canada will face off Great Britain, Belgium, Australia in pool play before taking on a Pool B opponent in the quarterfinal.
Here is a look at Canada’s competition…
Game 1 – Great Britain – November 28, 2015
Canada faces the tournament and world’s fifth ranked team, Great Britain, in its first match. The British side finished fourth at the last Olympic games in 2012, which was a home games for them. They will be looking to improve on that finish at the upcoming games in Rio and add to their total of five Olympic medals (two gold, one silver, and two bronze).
The Brits also have three Champions Trophy medal to their name; one silver and two bronze. The last time they won a medal at a major international games was silver at the Champions Trophy event in 1985.
Great Britain booked its ticket to the Hockey World League Final by finishing third at the World League Semi-Final in Antwerp.
Canada and Great Britain last met at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China and played to a 1-1 draw.
Game 2 – Belgium – November 29, 2015
Next up for Canada is Belgium. The Belgian men have been on the rise for the better part of the last decade. Ranked seventh in the world, they are now often looked at as having one of the most vaunted offenses in the game.
Coming off a best-ever finish (fourth) at last year’s World Cup, the team from the World League Semi-Final this year consisted of ten players with one hundred international caps or more.
Belgium finished second at the World League Semi-Final in Antwerp to earn their way to India’s final and the 2016 Olympic GAmes. They followed that up with a fifth place finish at the 2015 EuroHockey Championships. Belgium’s major medal finishes include bronze at the 1920 Olympics and silver (2013) and bronze (2007) at the Euro Championships.
Canada last faced Belgium and lost 5-2 at World League Round 2 in Saint-Germain, France in May 2013.
Game 3 – Australia – December 1, 2015
Canada’s toughest test will come in its final pool match when it faces World No. 1 and defending World Cup (2014) and Commonwealth Games (2014) champions, and Olympic bronze medalist (2012) Australia.
The Kookaburras have long been one of the best field hockey nations and many judge them to be the best team in the history of the sport and the standard by which to measure success. Recent form has them once again at the top of the table.
Australia won its continental qualifier, the Oceania Cup, this year and also placed first at the World League Semi-Final in Antwerp, earning double qualification into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Canada and Australia, both Commonwealth countries, are familiar with each other, having last played at the 2015 Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia. In that match in April, the Aussies won 7-0 against a Canadian team that was depleted due to injury.
Canada will face one of Argentina, India, Germany, or the Netherlands in the crossover quarterfinal match. The Canadians have recent history with all four teams, having played each of them at least once this calendar year.
Off all the teams at the World League Final, Canada is most familiar with its Pan American Rival Argentina. Two teams have met in the last eleven Pan Am Games gold medal matches, with the Argentines winning the last two – most recently in Toronto this past July. They also met twice at World League Round 3 in Argentina in June.
Canada played against both Germany (World No. 3) and the Netherlands (World No. 2) at World League 3, with the international powerhouses both defeating Canada convincingly.
The Canadians faced the Indians at the 2015 Azlan Shah in Malaysia, narrowly losing out 5-3.