PHOTO: Canada’s men during the National Anthem at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil (By Yan Huckendubler)
It is hard to believe that is has been two years since Canada’s men’s field hockey team pulled off a stunning defeat of 7th ranked New Zealand at the 2015 World League Semi-Final in Argentina.
The dramatic quarterfinal shootout win sent the Canadian men to the 2016 Olympic Games and began what has been a whirlwind 24 months.
It was also the beginning of a transformation in the Canadian men that comes to a head at the next World League Semi-Final in London this week.
“Obviously playing in the Olympics gives you perspective,” says defender Gordon Johnston who was a part of both teams and is with Canada’s men in London. “I think that a lot of the guys have developed since that last World League tournament.”
And it is that tournament that also has given the Canadians belief that they can compete with the best teams in the World.
The top-four finish at the World League Semi-Final in Argentina, followed by an appearance at the World League Final in India and culminated with participation in the 2016 Olympic Games, where Canada tied 6th ranked India.
“We can definitely take a lot of experience from that tournament,” Johnston says about the team’s performance in 2015. “I thought we played well as a team and performed against some of the top teams in the World. If we can take that experience and compete really well at the coming World League, then we have a good shot.”
Entering the London World League Semi-Final as the 5th ranked team and 11th in the world, the Canadians certainly have a shot at finishing in the top five and earning a World Cup spot.
And while that is the goal, for a team that team that has already tasted success in the from of qualification, it is not the only goal.
“We want to challenge ourselves and finish the best we can and win against teams that are at or above us in the World Ranking and put us in a good position to not only take that World Cup spot but also maybe finish higher than our ranking at the tournament.”
Canada open the 2017 World League Semi-Final in London on Friday against Pakistan at 10:00am PT/1:00pm ET.