The 12 best men’s and women’s teams from around the world are converging in Pretoria, South Africa as we countdown to the final few days till the start of the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup South Africa 2023! Each team comes with the aim of becoming indoor hockey world champions, but only one team can earn the highest honour at the end of the World Cup. The first obstacle for all 12 teams in both men’s and women’s category, come in the form of their pool opponents. The top-4 teams in each pool will qualify for the quarterfinals with the teams finishing in the bottom two spots in their pool getting eliminated from the quest for the title. In today’s preview, meet the teams in Pool B of the men’s competition, and find out the unique playing styles they will bring to the World Cup.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 20
Indoor World Cup history: Debutants
About the Team: Argentina are the current Indoor Pan American champions, having lifted the title in June 2021 thanks to a 4-2 victory over host nation USA in Spring City, Philadelphia. The South Americans finished top of the pile in a three-nation competition also featuring Canada, with Facundo Navarro and Agustin Ceballos both scoring four times in the event. Navarro and Ceballos feature in the initial squad named for Pretoria alongside Juan Eleicegui, who scored three times at the 2021 Indoor Pan Ams and gets the honour of captaining Argentina at their first ever Indoor World Cup. The team is coached by former Italy international Massimo Lanzano, with ex-Argentina outdoor star Guillermo ‘Willy’ Schickendantz taking the role of team manager.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 10
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 8th, 2007 – 8th, 2011 – 7th, 2015 – 10th, 2018 – 4th.
About the Team: Australia have featured in every edition of the Men’s Indoor Hockey World Cup played to date, earning a reputation as a team to be feared. They produced a series of outstanding performances at the 2018 Indoor World Cup event in Berlin, Germany, storming into the semi-finals before suffering a narrow 2-1 loss at the hands of eventual champions Austria. Defeat to Iran in the bronze medal match was a painful ending for the inspirational Aussies, who proved definitively that they can mix it with the very best. Three players from Berlin 2018 have been selected for the 2023 competition in Pretoria, with James Knee, Jake Sherren and goalkeeper Ben Rennie –competing in his third Indoor World Cup – being given their chance by head coach Steve Willer, who was also in charge of the team in Berlin. The squad contains twin brothers Ben and Jake Staines, who will both be looking to make a big impression at their first Indoor World Cup competition.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 4
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 7th, 2007 – 4th, 2011 – 8th, 2015 – 9th, 2018 – 5th.
About the Team: As two-time European indoor silver medallists (1997, 2012) and fifth place finishers at the Berlin 2018 Indoor World Cup, Czech Republic have a solid reputation in this event. The team were in action in December’s EuroHockey Indoor Championship competition in Hamburg, Germany, but finished bottom of the standings in sixth position. However, with a squad containing numerous high quality, vastly experienced players, they should not be underestimated. Thirty-somethings Tomas Prochazka and Martin Hanus and 47-year-old goalkeeper Pavel Hraba – a participant at the inaugural Indoor Hockey World Cup in 2003 in Leipzig, Germany – all know what it takes to compete at this level and will be keen to remind the world of their abilities. A player to watch is Lukas Plochy, who is capable of scoring from penalty corners and open play.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 3
Indoor World Cup history: 2011 – 9th, 2015 – 4th, 2018 – 3rd
About the Team: With a swashbuckling playing style and blessed with some truly outstanding individuals, Iran will rightly be considered as one of the competition favourites in Pretoria. Since recording a ninth-place finish on their event debut at Poznan 2011, Iran have improved at every subsequent tournament, finishing fourth at Leipzig 2015 before claiming a sensational bronze medal at Berlin 2018 with a crushing 5-0 victory over Australia. Iran have won the Men’s Indoor Hockey Asia Cup a record eight times, but are not the current title holders, having finally lost their crown in 2022 when Malaysia claimed a shoot-out victory after the final finished with the scores locked at 4-4. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Iran, who had dominated the competition with six wins out of six prior to the gold medal match, inspired by the form of Amirmahdi Mirzakhani, who finished competition top scorer with 13 goals in seven matches. Will 2023 be their year?
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 11
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 10th, 2007 – 11th, 2015 – 11th, 2018 – 11th.
About the Team: Tournament hosts South Africa have competed in four of the five previous editions of the men’s Indoor World Cup, having only missed the 2011 event in Poznan, Poland. Their 10th place finish at Leipzig 2003, the inaugural edition, remains their highest placement to date, an achievement that they will be determined to surpass in front of their home supporters in Pretoria. The team were crowned continental champions at the 2021 Men’s Indoor Africa Cup, defeating Namibia 4-1 thanks to goals from Mustaphaa Cassiem, Chad Futcher (2) and Jethro Eustice. Mustaphaa Cassiem scored 18 goals in the competition, with older brother Dayaan Cassiem bagging 16 and being named as the player of the tournament. The Cassiem brothers, Futcher and Eustice have all been named in South Africa’s Indoor World Cup squad and will do everything in their power to thrill the home fans at the Heartfelt Arena.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 19
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 11th, 2011 – 11th
About the Team: Appearing in their first Indoor World Cup for 12 years, USA were runners up to Argentina at the 2021 Men’s Indoor Pan American Cup, which was played on home soil in Pennsylvania. Team captain Pat Harris, one of the all-time greats of north American field hockey, finished top scorer at that event, netting six times in four matches. The 37-year-old has been selected for the event in Pretoria, a remarkable feat for a man who featured in both of USA’s previous campaigns, the first as an precociously talented 17-year-old at Leipzig 2003. JaJa Kentwell and brothers Aki and Kei Kaeppeler are also expected to be key players as the USA aim to make their mark on this competition.