The Australian city of Melbourne is all set to host the ABN AMRO Men’s Champions Trophy, the elite level tournament that features the six best international teams in the world. The tournament begins this Saturday, and promises to be a fantastic event which will showcase the world’s finest players in a spectacular sporting environment.
The tournament takes place at the State Hockey & Netball Centre, a venue which has seen its fair share of top level events, most significantly the hockey tournament of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. That particular tournament was won by Australia, something that Ric Charlesworth’s men will be keen to replicate in this event. However, the Kookaburras - who were winners of the last Champions Trophy tournament which took place at H.C. Rotterdam in 2008 – will face strong challenges from World and Olympic Champions Germany, European Champions England, Teun de Nooijer’s Netherlands, Olympic finalists Spain and the always unpredictable Korea.
Olympic Bronze Medallists Australia have a new look team but still feature a number of experienced world class players amongst their ranks. Like many nations after the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Coach Ric Charlesworth has seen a number of high profile retirements, but many big names remain such as two-time WorldHockey Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer, Liam De Young and 308 capped veteran midfielder Brent Livermore. Four players in the squad have less than 20 individual caps, with Glenn Turner, Matthew Butterini, Matthew Swann and goalkeeper George Bazeley hoping to impress at the top level.
Following their stunning and unexpected triumph in the Euro Hockey Nations Championship, England is a team on the up. Jason Lee has created a fantastically hard-working team that are starting to play hockey with genuine flair. Defender Richard Mantell is a defensive rock with a potent and powerful penalty corner drag-flick – something that is also present in Ashley Jackson, a midfielder who has made a big name for himself in both in England colours and for his Dutch club HGC.
Germany have decided to use the Champions Trophy as an opportunity to introduce a number of talented young players to top level hockey, none younger than 18-year-old striking sensation Florian Fuchs. The teenager was something of a star at the U-21 World Cup earlier this year and will be hoping to make a successful step up into the senior team. The Olympic Gold medallists are missing Timo Wess as well as Christopher and Philip Zeller – arguably the two most famous siblings in hockey – but the likes of Moritz Fürste, Philip Witte, Jan-Marco Montag, and Mattias Witthaus ensure that there is no shortage of quality in the Germany team.
Korea are currently ranked as the fifth best team in the world and will be aiming to move up the ranking table with a good performance in this tournament. Like all teams, a number of retirements followed after Beijing, but Korea still have plenty of stars in their line-up. 29-year-old Jong Ho Seo has played over 240 times for his country, and is joined by the experienced Nam Yong Lee, Hyo Sik You and Jong Bok Cha. At the age of 24, Seung Hoon Lee will be making his international debut in the tournament.
Like Australia, The Netherlands come to this tournament with a number of new faces, but there are still some legends amongst them. The biggest star of them all is always likely to be Teun de Nooijer, the brilliant attacker who is a three time winner of the WorldHockey Player of the Year Award. At 33, De Nooijer is clearly the oldest member of the team, but is as important to his side as ever. Amsterdam H&BC youngsters Valentin Verga and Billy Bakker are the newest faces in the Netherlands line-up, with both players making their international debuts in what will be a tournament neither of them will ever forget.
Following an 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Australia in the build-up to this tournament, it would be fair to say that Spain have been in mixed form recently. However, the team recovered to record a 2-1 win over the Kookaburras just a day later, showing that they should never be under-estimated. The team are missing star striker Santi Freixa who is recovering from a long term leg injury, but Edi Tubau, Xavi Ribas, Sergi Enrique, Ramon Alegre and 2008 World Hockey Player of the Year Pol Amat are all expected to shine in this tournament.
The ABN AMRO Champions Trophy gets underway at 13.05 (local time - GMT +11) on Saturday, with World & Olympic Champions Germany taking on England, the team that conquered them in the final of the Euro Nations Championship earlier this season. That match is followed by the Australia against Korea match at 15.05, before Spain and The Netherlands go head to head at 17.05.
The FIH has launched a special tournament micro site which will be bringing you extensive coverage of all the action from Melbourne. You will be able to see video interviews with the players; read live written commentaries, match reports, and quotes; view stunning action photos from each match and much more.
For more information and direct access to the micro site, please click here.