Several coaches assembled in the 10th edition of the junior World Cup hockey tournament here have concurred that it is difficult to find consistency in under-21 teams. So far, the Netherlands looks be the most consistent team and holds a lot of promise as the quarterfinals are set to be played at the National Stadium here on Thursday.
The Dutch side, pitted against New Zealand, enjoys a huge edge because of its depth and preparedness. It began its journey well, beating tough outfits like India (3-2) and Korea (3-2) before crushing Canada (7-0) to finish at the summit of Pool C.
Its solid midfield and lightening fast forwards, led by the prolific Milan van Baal, have tormented the rivals and will hope to continue with their good work.Peaking at right time
The junior Black Sticks, however, peaked at the right time to sneak through to the knockouts by surprising South Africa (1-0) in its final pool encounter. The team, having an able striker in Kane Russell, will explore opportunities to upset the Dutchmen. Belgium won everyone’s heart with its superb 3-1 win against defending champion Germany, followed by a 5-0 thrashing of Egypt after a goalless first half. The rising European side, however, could not maintain the winning momentum and managed a 2-2 draw against Pakistan.
“It will be a totally different game and we are gearing up for that,” said Belgium coach Philippe Goldberg ahead of his team’s last-eight clash with France.
France’s progress has surprised a lot. The team, featuring several players from its senior side, defeated two traditional opponents, Spain and Argentina, to earn a place in the quarters. France’s resistance against Belgium should make it a fascinating contest.
The last-eight date of Malaysia and Korea has ensured at least one Asian side’s presence in the semifinals. Malaysia, which remained unbeaten in the pool stage, has played with fine control and good understanding among its players.
Korea would take a lot of confidence from its 3-3 draw against India and will be keen on doing something special. Compact defender and penalty corner expert Seungju You, who is the top scorer with seven goals, will play a crucial role in Korea’s plans.
The Australia-Germany tussle will generate the maximum interest. The dashing Aussies started by decimating Argentina 5-2, but had to work hard to earn wins against Spain and France. The Aussies will be hoping to be at their best against the formidable Germans.
Germany has been on its toes after early shock from Belgium and looks serious in its intent. “The team is under pressure to perform but the boys are working to better themselves,” said German coach Andre Henning.
Meanwhile, India will play Argentina in a classification match on Thursday.
Keywords: Junior World Cup hockey tournament