The Hockeyroos have arrived in London ahead of the 2018 World Cup which starts next week, with the side targeting their third ever global title.
Australia heads into the quadrennial event ranked fifth in the world, with reigning champions and seven-time winners Netherlands going in as the favourites as the world’s number one ranked side in light of last year’s World League Final triumph.
The Dutch also claimed Olympic gold in London in 2012, although that tournament was played at Riverbank Arena, not the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre where this year’s World Cup will be held.
Rio Olympic gold medallists and hosts England are ranked second, with Argentina third and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallists New Zealand fourth.
Australia’s two previous World Cup triumphs both came during a rich era for the side, winning in 1994 and 1998, while they also claimed Olympic gold in 1996 and 2000.
Olympic triumphs appear to be indicative towards World Cup success, with the Dutch winning gold in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, along with the 2006 and 2014 World Cup titles, so Rio winners England loom large, particularly as hosts.
Remarkably the Dutch have appeared in the past five World Cup finals, although they have only won two. Interestingly, only three different nations have participated in the past seven World Cup finals; the Netherlands, Australia and Argentina, indicating a three-way dominance.
Four years ago, the Netherlands defeated the Hockeyroos 2-0 in the decider in The Hague, while 2010 World Cup winners Argentina came third.
Beyond those nations, only Germany (formerly West Germany) have ever lifted the World Cup; in 1976 and 1981, and they last competed in the final in 1986.
The Germans head into this World Cup ranked sixth, while 2017 World League Semi-Final winners USA (ranked seventh) and 2017 World League Final third-place getters South Korea (ranked eighth) shouldn’t be under-estimated.
Australia are in Pool D, alongside New Zealand whose best-ever World Cup finish occurred in 1986 when they came fourth.
The Black Sticks and Hockeyroos have forged a fierce rivalry in recent times, with New Zealand knocking Australia out of the 2016 Rio Olympics at the quarter-final stage and winning the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match. Japan (ranked 12th) and Belgium (ranked 13th) round out Pool D.
Belgium are the only European team in the pool which in terms of conditions may suit Australia, whose two previous World Cup titles both occurred in Europe; winning in Dublin in 1994 and Utrecht in 1998, showing that the continent holds no fears.
Curiously Australia were pooled with all three nations in 2014, albeit in the different six-team per pool format. The Hockeyroos beat both Japan and Belgium 3-2 while they drew 0-0 with New Zealand.
The current Australian side is vastly different to the one which reached the final four years ago, with only six members from the 2014 team part of the group which has travelled this year.
Those players are Jodie Kenny, Karri McMahon, Edwina Bone, Emily Smith, Rachael Lynch and Emily Hurtz, with a wave of new younger players now coming through.
Subsequently expectations for the Hockeyroos to win their first world title in 20 years are measured but given Australia’s strong history at the World Cup, nothing’s impossible.
All Hockeyroos’ World Cup matches will be televised LIVE on Fox Sports.
HOCKEYROOS’ WORLD CUP HISTORY
1974 – DNP
1976 – DNP
1978 – DNP
1981 – Fourth
1983 – Third
1986 – Sixth
1990 – Runners-up
1994 – Winners
1998 – Winners
2002 – Fourth
2006 – Runners-up
2010 – Fifth
2014 – Runners-up