Teams aim to beat the
heat at World Cup
Sixteen nations will defy soaring temperatures and stifling humidity at the 10th hockey World Cup, which will be more closely contested than previously when it begins on Sunday.
"The teams are closer this time than ever before. Previously the Netherlands were out in front on their own but Germany is the team to beat this time judging by their form and results," said England team manager David Whittle.
World and Olympic champions the Netherlands are one of only two sides to beat Germany since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, as the European champions ran up 34 wins from 36 matches under coach Bernhard Peters.
"Naturally, I am very pleased the way the team has played over the last 12 months but one thing is certain -- the going will be very tough in Kuala Lumpur," Wednesday's New Straits Times quoted the German coach as saying.
"While we will be able to match the other teams in terms of skills, tactics and strategies, I am more concerned with how my players will cope with the hot and humid weather," he added.
To prevent heat exhaustion in temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) and 100 per cent humidity levels, coaches will be allowed to use to their full 18-player squad in each game instead of a nominated five substitutes as in previous tournaments.
Matches are scheduled only for early morning and late afternoon or evenings to avoid the toughest conditions.
Germany, who lost in a practice match to the Dutch on Monday, start their campaign against Argentina, while the Netherlands take on New Zealand.
Tipped for a strong run are four-times World Cup winners Pakistan. Coach Hanif Khan will be hoping to emulate Abdul Rasheed Junior's achievement of winning the World Cup as a player and as a coach.
Rivals India had their only World Cup success in the last Kuala Lumpur final in 1975, but they could be contenders this year after beating Germany and Argentina in the Junior World Cup.
Of the other contestants, Cuba make their debut having won the Pan American championship while Japan came through last year's qualifying tournament in Edinburgh for a first appearance since 1973.
England meet Poland in their first match while Australia, champions in 1986, play hosts Malaysia.
Contesting Pool A are Argentina, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Spain. Pool B is made up of Australia, Cuba, England, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Poland.
The top two from each group will meet in semifinals to compete for a place in the final on March 9.
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