Field Hockey Canada > Canada ready for challenge of facing host England in World League quarterfinal

Canada ready for challenge of facing host England in World League quarterfinal

PHOTO: Balraj Panesar (left) and Scott Tupper (right) watch the ball in Canada’s match vs Pakistan on June 16, 2017 at the World League Semi-Final in London (By Yan Huckendubler)

June 21, 2017 | Shaheed Devji |

When it comes to checking items off their list, the Canadian men’s field hockey team has done pretty well so far in London.

Canada was able to take points from two key games when it won against Pakistan and tied Scotland. As a result, the men finished third in Pool B and moved on to the quarterfinal at the 2017 World League Semi-Final.

“It was really nice to get the great start that we did, which set us off in a good position in the tournament right away and we were really looking forward to doing that,” says team captain Scott Tupper, who has scored twice in London.

“I think we came in knowing that we had a really good shot at number three in the pool and perhaps could punch a bit higher if we caught some breaks and played really well. We didn’t quite get there, but to get in at the number three spot was good for us and I think sets us up well for the latter half of the tournament.”

Next up on the laundry list would be to replicate what they did at the 2015 World League Semi-Final in Argentina, where Canada upset World No. 7 New Zealand in the quarterfinal and essentially qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games.

In London, a quarterfinal win would guarantee a top four finish in the competition and 2018 World Cup spot, as the top five finishers earn World Cup qualification.

But the task of defeating England, which is also the 7th ranked team in the world this time around, may prove to be more difficult.

“They’re a bit of a redeveloped team with some younger guys, but their younger guys are good. They’re hard working and they’re fast and they’re dangerous,” says Men’s National Team Interim Head Coach Paul Bundy.

What is also different than 2015 is that the Canadian men are not nearly as familiar with the English and they were with the Blacksticks, which they faced in a seven game series earlier in the year prior to defeating New Zealand in Buenos Aires.

Canada last played Great Britain at the 2015 World League Final in India where they lost 3-1. They also met England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and also lost 3-1.

“It’s going to be a little bit trickier to manage because we’re playing in England,” Bundy says. “They’re going to have a home crowd advantage and they’re going to try and keep the tempo really high against us and they’re going to push us back into our defence. We’re going to make sure that the plan we have is going to cater for that.”

Canada has shown in this competition, however, that it can craft a plan that is effective against the world’s top teams.

In it’s pool match against the Netherlands, the world’s fourth ranked team, the 11th ranked Canadians came up on the short end of a 3-1 loss, but were pleased with the execution of their game plan, which gave them a chance to take points.

And for Canada, it will likely be the same approach against England on Thursday.

“With that Dutch game, we can draw on the positives with the way we defended, and at times perhaps frustrated them and really locked down our half of the pitch,” adds Tupper, who has been playing in the Dutch second division this year.

“We’ll have to be on top of sort of everything we do, but I think if we are I think we certainly have a shot to pull out a result and move on.”

That result would solidify a World Cup spot, but Canada knows it has already done a lot – and maybe enough – to ensure it has a good shot at qualifying anyways.

With several of the top five finishers at this World League and the one in South Africa in July likely to also with their respective Continental Championships later this year, Canada knows there will be double-qualifications for the World Cup around the corner, meaning finishers from 6th spot on from each tournament will be next in line to scoop up their World Cup spots.

But despite that, the Canadians would rather not leave things to chance if they have the choice.

“It’s not quite done and dusted yet,” Tupper says. “We still need to win some games to really lock it in. Top eight may be good enough, but we really want to put ourselves in the best position and to know as early as possible that the qualification has come.”