EuroHockey Nations Championship 2013: Round 1 Complete Schedule and Preview
Two years after Germany and Holland triumphed in the men’s and women’s competitions, respectively, the finest field hockey nations in Europe descend upon Belgium this weekend.
The hosts automatically qualify for both gender competitions while Germany, England, Ireland, Spain and Holland will also compete in the men’s and women’s tournament.
In addition, Poland and the Czech Republic have successfully made their way to the men’s event while Scotland and Belarus succeeded in qualifying for the women’s.
From the eight nations in each gender group, those competing are then split further into two pools before qualifying for the semifinal fixtures.
Here, we’ll look ahead to the opening encounters of this weekend’s EuroHockey action, with more than a couple of close matchups set to unfold.
Men’s Pool A Key Fixture: Germany vs. Belgium
After three tournaments away from continental honours, 2011 saw Germany reclaim the EuroHockey championship they won on four consecutive occasions between 1991 and 2003 before the tournament was changed to a biennial event.
The title holders now open their defence against hosts Belgium who, with the help of a home crowd, will be hoping to cause an upset in Boom.
The Belgians have never managed to finish higher than 2007’s third-place achievement, so they head into their 2013 opener as massive underdogs, despite home advantage.
Markus Wiese’s side managed to clinch the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and will certainly be looked at as one of the favourites to win this year’s European Championship, but the Belgians can’t be complacent against even the smaller opposition.
One to Watch: Simon Mantell
After finishing third at the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championships, England will have only bigger and better things in their sights at this year’s edition of the tournament.
If that is to be the case, the success of forward Simon Mantell will be essential and promises to have a big affect on matters in front of goal.
The 29-year-old has shown on Twitter that he’s preparing for the test ahead with some “Hockey Stick Jenga,” but there’s undoubtedly a lot more serious homework going on in the England camp, too.
One of the most reliable forwards that the 2009 EuroHockey champions have in their ranks, Mantell will need to be in scoring form if England are to have any chance at victory.
One to Watch: Maartje Paumen
A long-term staple of the Dutch national team, Maartje Paumen has been a part of the Netherlands teams to have come out on top of both the Beijing and London Olympics in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
With those two Olympic gold medals to her name, Paumen was also top scorer in the 2010 Women’s Hockey World Cup and remains one of the Netherlands’ most prolific assets heading into this month’s competition.
The 27-year-old’s first test comes against an Irish side that haven’t got the greatest expectations coming to Boom, giving Paumen the opportunity to get her tournament off to a promising start.
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