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It will be an unpredictable hockey World Cup, says legendary Spanish player Escarre

New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) Legendary Spanish hockey player and a member of the 1998 World Cup silver medal-winning side in Utrecht (Netherlands) Juan Escarre believes the 2023 FIH World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela will be unpredictable as several teams, including India, are well-matched in all departments 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. And, the Netherlands and Spain as well. But, you never know, anything is possible in this kind of tournament,” said the 53-yeat-old.

With less than 100 days to go for the global event, Escarre opened up on Spain’s chances of making it to the knockout round of the tournament.

“We will have the first match with India, and then Wales and England. Then, you have to cross with another group, and with two good matches, you are in the semifinal. During my time, the system was very difficult, you have to be on the top of six teams and straight to semifinal or from there play 5-8 placing. We will see, we are working to give our best and we will try to win it,” said Escarre, who is also the assistant coach of the Spanish side.

Speaking about Spain’s exciting rivalry with the Netherlands during his time, Escarre said the games brought the best out of both sides.

The Spanish team, then led by Joaquim Malgosa, remained unbeaten in the group stage, finishing second in Pool B of 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 succumbing to a 2-3 loss to the hosts Netherlands to earn a silver medal.

“I got injured in the final. I remember, we scored the first two goals, I got injured and then we lost. Every time I go to the Netherlands, they thank me and say because of my injury they won the world cup,” Escarre, who scored three goals in the tournament, said.

Speaking about 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 around 30,000 people watching us play in the final against the host country (Netherlands). I remember perfectly the moment of the National Anthem. The entire stadium was covered in Orange colour and there were only some red shirts in the corner.

“But, it’s 11 against 11. There is nothing else. When you play in international tournaments, you know this feeling, and you have to do the same work whether the crowd is against you or supporting you,” he added.

At the 1996 Olympic Games also, Spain lost to the Netherlands in the final to settle for second place. Elaborating about Spain’s rivalry with the Netherlands, the Spaniard stated, “They are one of the best teams I ever played against. I still remember all the names. We lost on almost all the occasions we have played against them. Just before the World Cup, we played some friendly matches and we lost 6-1, 6-0 to them. We had chances in the Final at the Atlanta Olympics, we started scoring, in the world cup we also had our chances, but it was too much for us.”

Regarded as one of the best midfielders of his time, Escarre had an illustrious career for Spain, making 256 appearances. He featured in the Sydney 2000 Olympics and led the team to a fourth-placed finish at the Athens 2004 Olympics. Under his captaincy, Spain won the 2004 Champions Trophy held in Lahore, Pakistan. He was also part of the team that won the EuroHockey Championships 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.

–IANS

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