Pool A - Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Spain
Defending champions and hosts the Netherlands will be looking to put a disappointing fourth placed finish at the 2016 Olympic Games behind them and land a second consecutive EuroHockey Nations Championship title. The orange men should make it out of Pool A with relative ease and could well take maximum points from their three games.
With the hosts looking too strong to fail, the focus will be on Belgium, Spain and new boys Austria. Neither Belgium or Spain made it past the preliminary round in 2015, however, the Belgians do look a little more well-equipped to secure second place given their appearance in the Olympic final 12 months ago, but a repeat of their EuroHockey Nations Championship final in 2013 looks beyond them this time around. Spain secured fifth place in Rio, but look set to fall short this time around.
Meanwhile, a freshed faced Austria side, who will hope to make the semi-finals for the first time in their history, could struggle to make an impression given their lack of experience at the highest level of men’s hockey.
Pool B - Germany, England, Ireland, Poland
Germany were forced to limp away from the 2015 final following a devastating 6-1 defeat to arch-rivals the Netherlands, but are certainly not going to let that get to them this year. The side currently ranked third in the world fell victim to Argentina at the Olympics, however, they were able to exact revenge on the Dutch, beating them in a penalty shootout to claim the bronze medal.
The Germans, who have never failed to make it past the group stages, could face competition from both of 2015’s beaten semi-finalists, with England and Ireland looking to spoil the party. The English last fell at the first hurdle in 2007, only to come back stronger two years later and lift the title, while Ireland will need to buck up their ideas if they are to improve upon their tenth-placed finish in Rio last year.
Poland will be be hoping to make a good first impression following their promotion from the Hockey Champions Challenge in 2015.
The Netherlands should have no issues making it through a weak-looking Pool A and seem very well-placed to cling on to the title they won two years ago in London. Belgium are the only real team who seem capable of stopping the orange tsunami, but they could find themselves swept aside as the host surge towards the semis. As for the threat posed by Spain and Austria, the less said, the better.
Pool B looks to be the group of death, with Germany, England and Ireland all capable of making it through to the knockout stages. The Germans certainly look the strongest and a run of rousing displays would certainly leave the rest of the field quaking in their boots. The crunch match in Pool B should be Ireland’s clash with England in a repeat of the 2015 third/fourth place play-off. It’s hard to see past the men in white, especially given Ireland’s disappointing display in Brazil. Poland will be lucky to avoid an immediate return to the EuroHockey Champions Challenge in 2019.
Sports.net’s top tip:
- The Netherlands and Germany to qualify