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The third edition of Hockey World League Final will be played at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha between Friday, December 1, and Sunday, December 10.
Eight top-ranked teams, including hosts India, will take part in what is expected to be the final edition of the league, which will be replaced by a new league in 2018, according to the International Hockey Federation (FIH). While Netherlands (hosts), Australia and Argentina have already qualified for next year’s FIH Champions Trophy, the upcoming tournament in India will provide an opportunity for the other teams to make it to the eight-team tournament in Breda.
Having endured a “disappointing” Rio Olympics, world champions Australia are currently on a rebuilding process under a new coach Colin Batch and the Hockey World League Finals is their first step towards reclaiming their numero uno position in world hockey. Captain and the team’s most experienced player, 33-year- old Mark Knowles, with 305 international caps, knows the pain of “underachieving” at last year’s Olympics, a competition where they went as world No 1 side, only to finish a disappointing sixth.
To name a few, India have the likes of Harmanpreet Singh, Dipsan Tirkey, Sumit Varun Kumar among the young faces for this competition. “All the young players have potential and that’s why they are with the team. Now it’s normal for most of the youngsters to reach a high level and then fall. But what’s important is how they cope with the fall and learn from it because with all the expectations, it’s normal for them to fall at times,” Marijne said.
Australia have been India’s nemesis in the last few years, having beaten them on almost all occasions, but Knowles said the Kookaburras won’t take the home team lightly.
“We normally play important matches at a very high level and India are one of our biggest rivals. They are our Commonwealth rival and they are our world rival now,” he said.
Asked about their preparation and mental frame of mind before facing India, against whom they have registered convincing wins in the past couple of years, Knowles said: “No definitely not (take India lightly). The games we played against India were important games.