France will play world no. 17 China in the cross-overs today and going by their form, they are expected to reach the quarterfinals, where a stern test awaits them in the form of two-time defending champions and world no.1 Australia.
France’s coach Jeroen Delmee, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Netherlands, happily admitted that they have already surpassed expectations here and the team is on the right track.
“We have showed that with our work that even if you don’t have 100,000 hockey players, you can still achieve your dream.” Delmee, said.
France doesn’t boast of a rich hockey legacy. The last time they were part of the Olympics was way back in 1972 Munich edition.
The last World Cup they featured was in 1990. France team is made up of semi-professionals, most of whom play club hockey in Belgium and work in France.
France, the lowest ranked team competing at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, stunned the hockey world on Day Nine, defeating Olympic champions Argentina to seal a second-place finish in Pool A just behind the Pan American giants.
A 5-3 victory for France against Los Leones was undisputedly the biggest shock of the competition so far, upsetting the FIH Hero World Rankings both in terms of the result and the effect on the final standings in the pool, with the European side finishing above higher-ranked New Zealand on goal difference and eliminating neighbours Spain from the competition.
“It is a dream come true moment for everyone. This is a confidence booster which French hockey needed. It is a historic result and this can change the fortunes of country’s hockey,” Coach Delmee said after the win over Argentina.
People may think their 5-3 win over Argentina was a fluke, but for France captain Victor Charlet, the win is a result of hard work and a by-product of FFH’s long-term, collective vision.
“Hockey is not big like soccer in France. To achieve success at the top level, we need to keep this group of players together for a long time. That is precisely what Belgium did 10-15 years ago and they are reaping the rewards now,” France captain Victor Charlet said.