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Women's Hockey WC: Netherlands start as firm favourites, India aim for a first

The crème de la crème of women’s hockey will be in action when the top 16 sides of the world will fight for the coveted FIH World Cup crown with record eight-time winners Netherlands eyeing a hat-trick of titles and India aiming for a first.

Defending champions Netherlands, who would be co-hosting the tournament along with Spain from July 1 to 17, are the most dominant outfit in women’s hockey, having won the world title eight times while finishing runner-up on four occasions. The Dutch women also have four Olympic gold, two silver and three bronze in their kitty, making them favourites to defend the title. Argentina, Australia and Germany are a distant second, having won the tournament twice each.

The tournament, however, will kick start with a Pool C game between hosts Spain and Canada in Pool C, whose best finish was a second spot in the 1983 edition in Kuala Lumpur. The 16 teams in the tournament are divided in four pools of four teams each.

The top four sides from each pool will directly qualify for the quarterfinals, while the second and third placed teams will feature in the crossovers. In the crossovers, the second placed team of Pool A will play against the third of Pool D and vice versa, while second of Pool B will face third of Pool C and vice versa for the remaining four quarterfinal spots.

Pool A consists of Germany, Chile, last edition’s runners-up Ireland and Netherlands, Pool B has India, China, England and New Zealand. Pool C comprises Argentina, Canada, Korea and Spain and Pool D is made up of Australia, Belgium, Japan and South Africa.

Going into the tournament, Netherlands would be brimming with confidence after finishing as runner-ups of the FIH Pro League, where Argentina has crowned champions and India ended a creditable third in their debut season.

Even though India’s best performance in the tournament was a fourth place finish at the inaugural edition in 1974, they will be no pushovers in this edition of the event as they have been on a rise after achieving a historic fourth in last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Indian women’s team achieved its best-ever sixth position in the world rankings in May this year and gave some top teams of the world a run for their money in the FIH Pro League to finish on the podium ahead of sides like Belgium, Australia and England.

And the Janneke Schopman-coached Indian side would be dreaming of registering its name in the record books by finishing in the top four in this tournament, which is definitely not impossible. India will start their campaign against England on Sunday. While the Netherlands leg of the tournament will be hosted by Amstelveen, the semifinal and final of the tournament are scheduled to be played here.

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