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July 21, 2021 — Olympic preview: men’s field hockey

AL’S FEARLESS PODIUM

Netherlands
Australia
Argentina

The 2021 Olympics may have jumbled world rankings on the lead-in to Tokyo, but a Netherlands team which finished out of the medals in Rio are focused and motivated to win. And think of this: the Oranje will have to open the Olympics against the very team that beat them in the finals of the 2018 FIH men’s World Cup, Belgium. I think that the Dutch will have the goods this time. Veteran forward Jason Hertzberger will have to be at his best, and I think Billy Bakker will tie together the offense and defense nicely.

Vying for top honors will be Australia. The Kookaburras will be led by all-rounder Eddie Ockenden, who has played all positions in his career. Much will be asked of attacker Jake Whetton and goalkeeper Andrew Charter.

Defending Olympic champion Argentina has two members of the 300-cap club, captain Pedro Ibarra and full back Juan Martin Lopez. The Lions, however, are going to have a lot of young players in key positions. Midfielder Thomas Habif, whose older sisters Florencia and Agustina have represented Argentina in world-level competition, has just seven caps coming into the Games.

You can’t have a discussion about the medals table without Belgium, your defending World Cup champions as well as the top team in the current FIH Pro League. Midfielder John-John Dohmen has more than 400 caps for the Red Devils, and forward Tom Boon has more than 300. Boon is going to be the barometer for the team.

The dark-horse team in this tournament, I think, is Germany. However, veteran defenders Tobias Hauke and Martin Haner are going to have to do yeoman’s work in front of goalkeeper Alex Stadler, who has just 10 caps to his name coming into Tokyo. If the Germans can find the goals, watch out.

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