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 women’s competition, and find out the unique playing styles they will bring to the World Cup.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 13
Indoor World Cup history: 2015-11th.
About the Team: Belgium make their second Indoor World Cup appearance, returning to the top table after an 11th place finish at the Leipzig 2015 competition. Team captain Laurine Delforge – who is not only a superb indoor player but one of the finest international umpires around, umpiring Olympic and World Cup finals – is one of four players selected for this event
to have also competed in Leipzig, with Charlotte vander Gracht, Marie Ronquetti and superb goalkeeper Elodie Picard also veterans from their previous campaign. The team is coached by Max Garreta, a former captain of the Belgium men’s indoor side.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 16
Indoor World Cup history: 2007 – 9th, 2015 – 10th.
About the Team: Canada women are two-time Pan American continental champions, having won the title both in 2005 and 2014. They were the beaten finalists in the 2021 edition of the competition, where host nation USA claimed a 3-0 victory over their north American rivals at the tournament in Spring City, Pennsylvania. Kathleen Leahy and Alison Lee scored six goals apiece in that competition, with Madison Thompson also making a telling contribution with a four goal haul. Both Leahy and Lee have been named in Canada’s 2023 Indoor World Cup squad, with Lee having the honour of captaining her country here in Pretoria.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 4
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 4th, 2007 – 11th, 2011 – 6th, 2015 – 3rd, 2018 – 7th.
About the Team: Czech Republic are ever-present in the Indoor World Cup, with their best performance coming at the 2015 competition in Leipzig, where they snatched the bronze medal thanks to a shoot-out victory against Austria. Katerina Lacina and Adela Reinosova scored what proved to be the medal winning goals in the one-on-ones, giving Czech Republic their greatest Indoor World Cup moment. Lacina, who also represented her country at Berlin 2018, will captain the team in Pretoria. A fifth-place finish at the 2022 EuroHockey Indoor Championship in Hamburg, Germany was perhaps below expectations, but they did end that competition on a high, comprehensively defeating Turkey 5-0 with Lucie Duchkova scoring twice.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 12
Indoor World Cup history: 2011 – 12th, 2015 – 12th. 2018 – 12th.
About the Team: Having won six of the eight Indoor Hockey Asia Cup competitions played to date, Kazakhstan have a solid reputation at continental level. However, with last place finishes at their three previous Indoor World Cup competitions, they will be keen to show the world their qualities this time around. Kazakhstan looked on course for a seventh continental title at the 2022 Indoor Hockey Asia Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, reaching the semi-finals unbeaten before suffering two defeats to end the competition in fourth place. Eighteen year old Viktoriya Lobanova (8 goals) and Balzhan Beisenbay (7) both impressed at the event in Bangkok and are likely to be key players here in Pretoria.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 9
Indoor World Cup history: 2011 – 10th, 2018 – 9th.
About the Team: Namibia are three-time winners of the Indoor Africa Cup continental championship, with their most recent title arriving at the 2021 event in Durban, South Africa. Remarkably, Namibia suffered two defeats against South Africa in the competition, losing 2-1 and 4-0 before turning the tables in the gold medal match with Sunelle Ludwig and Jaime Gillies scoring the goals to give Namibia a 2-0 triumph over the host nation. In October 2022, the two nations again went head-to-head in a five match test series, with Namibia winning two, drawing two and losing once. Azaylee Philander netted eight times to finish as the top scorer in the test series. The team is captained by Magreth Mengo, who represented Namibia in both of their previous Indoor World Cup campaigns.
Current FIH Indoor World Ranking: 3
Indoor World Cup history: 2003 – 4th, 2007 – 11th, 2011 – 6th, 2015 – 3rd, 2018 – 7th
About the Team: Having never finished lower than sixth in their previous four Indoor World Cup campaigns, 2011 bronze medallists Ukraine have consistently proven themselves to be a potent force in this competition. They came agonisingly close to claiming a second Indoor World Cup bronze medal at the Berlin 2018 event, taking the lead against Belarus before eventually suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat. They arrive in Pretoria as European bronze medallists thanks to a series of superb performances at the EuroHockey Indoor Championship 2022 in Hamburg, Germany. Oksana Ponomarenko scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Austria in the 3-4 play-off game, while Olha Honcharenko top scored for her team with seven goals in the competition. Led by captain Yevheniia Moroz, Ukraine’s talented, vastly experienced team have every chance of getting amongst the medals once again.