Argentina on Tuesday surprised the hockey fraternity worldwide by topping pool A in the Hockey World League semi-finals being held in Malaysia, ahead of Olympic champions Germany.
“We are very happy,” coach Carlos Retegui said, after a 3-0 win over South Korea saw Argentina finish at the top — two goals ahead of the Germans.
Facundo Callioni, Matias Paredes, and Gonzalo Pillat scored within 13 minutes in the second half to secure the pool-winning victory, after Germany’s 3-1 against Japan on a rainy day in Johur Bahru.
“We have many young talented boys in our squad”, Retegui said.
The 43-year-old has played at three Olympics between 1996 and 2004 in his active career, and was head coach of the national women’s team before.
Retegui’s biggest success with the “Las Leonas” is the World Championship win in 2010 on home soil in Rosario. Between 2009 and 2012, he also led the women contingent to a silver in the 2012 London Olympics, as well as three Champions Trophy victories in 2009, 2010, and 2012.
Retegui and the “Las Leonas” have also won several Four-Nation tournaments. However, defeat in the 2011 Pan-American Games final against the United States was a big disappointment for them, and denied them direct qualification for the London Olympics.
After the London Olympics, Retegui switched to the men’s side.
“The only difference between coaching women and men is that women wear strapless and tighter shirts,” Retegui said with a smile.
His boys are doing very well so far in Johor Bahru, drawing 1-1 with Germany, and beating Korea 3-0 and Japan 7-1. But for Rategui, “the tournament starts now.” The quarter-final on Thursday will be crucial to securing qualification for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague, as only the top three from Johor Bahru gain direct entry.
If Argentina fail, they still have a chance to make it to the 12-team World Cup by either becoming Pan-American champions or on the steam of their final ranking in Johor Bahru.
The other quarter-finals are: England vs Japan, Pakistan vs South Korea, and Germany vs Malaysia.