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World No.1 & Olympic champions Argentina hockey team revel in rapid rise

From being outside the top-10 in world rankings when they entered the 2014 World Cup, the Argentina hockey team have now become World No.1.

other sports Updated: Nov 28, 2017 19:10 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Argentina hockey team,hockey,Hockey World League Final
The Argentina hockey team after their arrival in Bhubaneswar on Monday for the Hockey World League Final.(PTI)

Argentina’s consistent rise in hockey over the last three years, the high point of which was their gold medal at 2016 Rio Olympics, has been the biggest talking point in the game.

From being outside the top 10 in world rankings when they entered the 2014 World Cup, the South Americans have now become the world No. 1. Their ascent began at the 2014 World Cup at The Hague where they won bronze and haven’t looked back since.

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The architect of their success is head coach Carlos Jose Retegui, a former Argentina international.

Nicknamed Chapa, he guided both the men and women teams simultaneously to World Cup bronze at The Hague before leading the men to Olympic glory.

The men’s team finished second at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals at London earlier this year and followed it up with a second consecutive Pan American Cup title, defeating Canada 2-0 in the final.

With major events lined up next year, including the World Cup and the Olympic qualifiers, the mighty Argentines would take the World Hockey League Finals as a rehearsal.

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The team arrived in Bhubaneswar on Monday and immediately underwent a rigorous training session.

Key players in the side include veteran captain Matias Paredes and Lucas Vila. One of the most gifted attackers in world hockey, Vila is known to score spectacular goals and provides valuable assists to team-mates.

The 31-year-old has been central to Argentina’s rapid rise in world rankings and played an instrumental role in their Olympic success last year. The powerfully-built penalty corner expert Gonzalo Peillat would be another big man to watch out for. Paredes, 35, was named Player of the Tournament at Pan Am Cup and also finished as the joint top-scorer -- with seven goals --- alongside team-mate Peillat.

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Maico Casella, 20, is known for his pace and on-field intelligence, making him one of the hottest young talents in the game.

Argentina begin their campaign against Belgium on December 2, before clashing with Netherlands the following day. And after a day’s rest, they would play their last league match of Pool A against Spain. The match against Netherlands will be particularly important as they’d like to avenge their 6-1 loss to the Europeans at the final of Hockey World League Semi-Finals.

First Published: Nov 28, 2017 19:10 IST