Legendary Spanish hockey player and member since 1998 Globalism Silver medal winning team at the Cup in Utrecht (Netherlands) Juan Escari believes the 2023 FIH World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela will be unpredictable as many teams, including India, are evenly matched well in all sections of the game.
“If you see the world rankings – Belgium, Australia and you will always find a very good German team. Of course, India Also, I think they have a chance. So are the Netherlands and Spain. “But you never know everything is possible in this kind of tournament,” said the 53-year-old.
With less than 100 days left until the global event, Ascari opened up Spain’s chances of reaching the knockout round of the tournament.
“We’ll have the first game with India, then Wales and England. Then you have to get through another group and with two good games you’re in the semi-finals. During my time the system was very difficult, you have to be top of six teams and straight into the semi-finals.” Or from there you play 5-8. “We’ll see, we’re working to give our best and we’ll try to win it,” said Escari, who is also the Spanish team’s assistant coach.
Speaking of the exciting rivalry between Spain and the Netherlands during his time, Ascari said the matches brought out the best in both sides.
The Spanish team, led by Joaquim Malgosa, remained undefeated in the group stage, finishing second in Group B at the 1998 Men’s Hockey World Cup with four wins and a draw. They went on to defeat Germany 3-0 in the semifinals before losing 2-3 to the host Netherlands to take home the silver medal.
“I was injured in the final. I remember we scored the first two goals, I was injured and then we lost. Every time I go to Holland, they thank me and say because of my injury they won the World Cup,” said Escari, who scored three goals in the tournament.
Speaking of his memories of the 1998 World Cup, the former midfielder recalled playing in the final against a strong Dutch team in front of 30,000 fans.
“There were about 30,000 people watching us play in the final against the host country (Netherlands). I perfectly remember the moment of the national anthem. The whole stadium was covered in orange and there were only a few red shirts in the corner.
“But, 11 against 11. There is nothing else. When you play in international tournaments, you know that feeling, and you have to do the same whether the crowd is against you or supports you.”
Also at the 1996 Olympics, Spain lost to the Netherlands in the final to settle for second place. Elaborating on the rivalry between Spain and the Netherlands, the Spaniard said: “They are one of the best teams I have ever played against. I still remember all the names. We lost on almost all the occasions we played against them. Right before the World Cup we played some friendlies and lost 6-1 And 6-0 in front of them. We had chances in the final at the Atlanta Olympics, we started to score, and at the World Cup we also had our chances, but it was too much for us.
Regarded as one of the best midfielders of his era, Escari had a stellar career with Spain, making 256 appearances. He participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and led the team to fourth place at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Under his leadership, Spain won the 2004 Champions Cup held in Lahore, Pakistan. He was also part of the team that won the EuroHockey Championship in 2005.
The 16 teams competing in the Hockey World Cup in January are Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, India, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, England, France, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, South Africa, Japan, Chile and Wales.
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