he 14th edition of the Hockey World Cup, held at the Kalinga Stadium in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar from November 28- December 16, was a memorable event.
Belgium lifted the coveted trophy for the first time. They became only the sixth winners of the men’s World Cup after Pakistan (four time winners), Holland (thrice), Australia (thrice), Germany (twice) and India.
In the final, Belgium defeated Holland in penalty shootout. It had ended 0-0 after the scheduled 60 minutes. It was the first ever final in the World Cup history which saw no goal in the regulation time.
Belgium became the first team to win a World Cup final without forcing a penalty corner. Before this World Cup, Belgium had never qualified for even semi-finals. Their best position was 5th in the last World Cup (2014). It was the third final to be decided on a tie breaker (penalty strokes or penalty shootout).
Interestingly, Holland have figured in all the three final tie breakers, winning once (1973) and losing twice (1994 and 2018).
There are similarities in Belgium’s triumph here and Pakistan’s in 1994. Belgian defender Simon Gougnard stayed with the team despite the demise of his ailing father two days before the final. Tahir Zaman had done the same in 1994. Both nations beat Holland in the tie-breaker in the final.
Only the second time, two neighbours clashed in a World Cup final. In 1975, India had beaten Pakistan 2-1. This World Cup had 16 teams. Only once before, in 2002 World Cup, had so many teams contested.
There were fears that the large number might devalue the tournament, but the events fully justified FIH’s decision to increase the number of participating countries.
France, the lowest-ranked side at Bhubaneswar, beat all the odds to reach the quarter-finals. On their way, France caused the biggest upset of this World Cup when they defeated Argentina, the Olympic Champions and World no 2.
China, the second lowest-ranked team, were making their maiden appearance. They drew with bigger teams, England and Ireland, to make it to the crossovers for quarter- finals; they eventually finished 10th.
In fact, after the completion of the first two rounds of the pool games, all the 16 teams had figured on the points table. Hence, mathematically, none was out of the race to progress when the last round of the pool games started.
For many, Australia was the unluckiest side. The two-time defending champions failed to make it to the final as they lost their semi-final in shootout. It would have been their record-extending fifth successive final appearance.
They were the only team among the semi-finalists who had topped the pool. Belgium, Holland and England had finished second in their respective pools and qualified for the quarter-finals after winning crossover matches.
Australia were the top scorers of this World Cup with 29 goals. They conceded the least number of goals: four.
They also broke Pakistan’s record of most successive wins (15 matches) in the World Cup. Coming into this World Cup, Australia had won their last 13 matches. As they won the first four games, Australia were victorious in 17 matches on the trot.
After the semi-final defeat, the Aussies gave vent to their disappointment by trouncing England 8-1 in the bronze medal playoff – the most one-sided medal match in World Cup history. This bronze medal was a record-extending 10th World Cup medal for Australia: 3 gold, 2 silver and 5 bronze. They joined Germany with their 11th successive semi-final appearance.
England was another unlucky side. For the third time running, they failed to climb the World Cup podium by a whisker; finishing fourth each time. England’s sole medal remains the silver at home in 1986.
Europe had the highest representation with seven teams; it was also the most successful as five made it to the quarter-finals, three qualified for the semi-finals and two played the final.
Asia had four teams. But only hosts India reached the last-eight stage, finishing sixth. The other three were China (10th), Pakistan (12th) and Malaysia (15th). Oceania: Australia (3rd) & New Zealand (9th) Americas: Argentina (7th) & Canada (11th) Africa: South Africa (16th)
Seven of the 16 teams were playing under foreign coaches. Holland provided three of them. Ironically, Holland’s own team had an Argentine coach.
Belgium: Shane McLeod (NZ)
Malaysia: Roelant Oltmans (Holland)
China: Kim Sang-ryul (Korea)
Holland: Max Caldas
France: Jeroen Delmee
Ireland: Alexander Cox
South Africa: Mark Hopkins (England)
Seven teams included pairs of brothers: Belgium, Malaysia, Pakistan, Canada, France, Ireland and New Zealand. Of these, Canada and Pakistan had two pairs of brothers. Pakistan’s original squad didn’t include Arslan Qadir. After captain Rizwan Sr’s injury against Malaysia, Arslan was sent to India to join his brother Faisal, and he played in Pakistan’s last two matches.
There was another pair of brothers but not in the same team. Mark Gleghorne featured for England while his younger brother Paul was in the Irish colours. Both the teams were in the same pool. When they came across to play each other, it was the last match of the pool. Both had lost one and drawn one. To progress to the crossovers, England needed to win. Only a draw was enough for Ireland. England won 4-2 with the last goal coming in the final minute, scored by Mark Gleghorne.
Player of the Tournament: Arthur Van Doren (Belgium)
Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Pirmin Blaak (Holland)
Young Player of the Tournament: Thijs van Dam (Holland)
Top Scorer: Blake Govers (Australia) & Alexander Hendrickx (Belgium) – 7 goals
Fair Play Award: Spain
9: New Zealand
16: South Africa