Germans, Aussies fancy their chances
The burden of expectations seems to weigh heavy on the shoulders of Bernhard Peters, the German hockey coach, and his Australian counterpart, Barry Dancer, binding them on the issue but for different reasons.
Germany are still to win the World cup, despite being in the 1-4 bracket in almost every edition, and reaching the final only once. On the other hand, Australia have won the World cup just once, in 1986, though always figuring in the semi-finals.
Talking to media after the team practice session, at the National stadium, Peters said, ''Winning the World Cup is a great target for us Germans. Yes, I agree that though we had the talent and resources in the past, we could never win the cup. But this time, we are determined to do something about it.''
Looking ahead to his team's matches in the so-called group of death which includes Holland, Pakistan and Spain, Peters said, ''We have to put in a lot of hard work in the first few matches. We have a good team of young and experienced players."
''I have opted for aggressive and dynamic hockey with a fast and skillful offence,'' he added.
Regarding his team's preparations for the tenth World Cup, Peters pointed out that the team had enjoyed a profitable season last year during, which they won the Champions trophy.
''Thereafter, we went to South Africa for a brief training session, and then on to Spain before coming to Kuala Lumpur. So, our team has had good preparations and we are determined to win our maiden World cup,'' said Peters, in his first World cup as the coach of the German team.
He was not even thinking of semi-finals and preferred to take one match at a time, since, most of the top teams were playing at the same level.
Likewise, Dancer expressed confidence that Aussies would make it to semis and regarded India and Korea, as the main threats in the league phase.
''The Indian team has developed very well in the past six months. They are a skillful bunch and very challenging,'' Dancer pointed out.
''Having said that, I think, we too have shaped up well in the past year, especially since July. We have now come together as a team,'' he said.
Commenting on the Australian weakness to choke in big matches, like they did in the 1994 Sydney World Cup, when lost in the semis, Dancer said, ''I agree that we lost matches we should have won. But this time, we have come well prepared and I am pretty confident that we will be there in the semi-finals.''
Dancer regretted that having to play nine matches in 14 days was a bit too much for the asking.
"The schedule is rather cramped, but then we must applaud the International Hockey Federation (IHF) for allowing 18 players instead of 16. Also, the rolling subsitution will have a more significant role to play, under the circumstances," he said.
Photographs: Stanley Chou/ALLSPORT
Mail Sports Editor