The World Cup starts this Saturday!

England's Nick Catlin prepares to challenge Australia's Matthew Swann - by Ady Kerry

This Saturday England Men begin their World Cup campaign, and we've pulled together how we think England's pool opponents might match up.

England men are in Pool A with Australia, Belgium, India, Malaysia and Spain. According to the FIH World Rankings, their pool ranges from the world number one (Australia) all the way to the lowest ranked team in the tournament, Malaysia. England are next to the top on fourth, but while that doesn't mean that their tournament won't be a tough one, they stand a good chance of getting through to the next stage in a good position.

All times mentioned below are UK time.

England’s first opponents at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup will be the squad from Spain, at 16:30 on Saturday 31 May. The men haven’t played Spain since 2010, so an ever-changing squad could mean that the past counts for nothing when it comes to the World Cup. There’s a two-to-one win/loss ratio in Spain’s favour, but with high scorer Ashley Jackson still on the team (having scored against them three times over the past five matches) Spain will have a lot to fear.

Two days later on Monday 2 June England face India at 15:00, who were played most recently at the Hero Hockey World League Finals in New Delhi in January. Back then it was a clean win courtesy of Adam Dixon, and in over 12 goals conceded by India in recent history it’s Ashley Jackson again who’s the man to keep an eye out for, having scored half of them.

On Thursday 5 June it’s Malaysia’s turn at 12:00 to stand in the way of England’s World Cup campaign, but the pool’s lowest ranked team at 13 might find themselves with quite the fight on their hands. Malaysia is another team that was last faced on their home turf, and as England walked away with a win back in 2013 they should be hoping that this match will similarly go their way. We’ve played them 28 times, and over half the time England have been the winners – hopefully the men can keep up that score this time around in the Hague.

The match against world number one Australia at 15:00 on Saturday 7 June could well prove to be England’s toughest match of the tournament if these teams’ histories are anything to go by. While England might have won their match the last time they were on the pitch together at the World League Finals in New Delhi, the majority of their games before then have gone Australia’s way. 56 times they’ve played, and Australia’s won 40 of them, but as most of that was before February 2010 the stats can only tell us so much. Barry Middleton and Tom Carson were the two scorers in their last match, so with any luck we’ll see a repeat of their January meet-up.

Belgium, ranked fifth in the world by the FIH, are one of the top teams tipped to win the World Cup, and England will have to work hard on Monday 9 June at 18:45 to prove why they’re ranked above them. Of the five teams that England are up against in Pool A, Belgium’s the side that they’ve played the most, most recently, with five games having been in the past two years. They (Belgium) were winning the majority of the matches in the World League lead-up to the finals, but when it came down to the wire in New Delhi England were able to take the points with a solitary goal from Tom Carson. At the Four Nations in Glasgow in April Phil Roper’s first England goal wasn’t enough to take another win, but that defeat will be fresh in all the player’s minds – they’ll do everything they can to see it doesn’t happen again in the Netherlands.

This is just what we think, but how do you think the tournament will play out in the pool stages? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook! Also, check out our interview with Alastair Brogdon about what he thinks about the upcoming tournament (his second World Cup).

Get the dates and times in your diary so you don't miss any of the action, all available on Sky Sports - you can find the men's and women's tournament schedules in our International Fixtures section, or all of them together here.


Men's Hockey World Cup - Pools and Team Rankings
 

Pool A

Ranking

Pool B

Ranking

Australia

1

Argentina

11

Belgium

5

Germany

2

England

4

Korea

7

India

8

Netherlands

3

Malaysia

13

New Zealand

6

Spain

10

South Africa

12