The World Cup has been amazing, a hockey fest with over 250.000 supporters in The Hague and 350 million viewers across the globe, so we were told… I am sure this will be so for most of the hockey fans all over the world.
Two days after the final I must admit I’m still having some trouble admitting to this, even though I’m only a supporter. Seeing your team (the Dutch men that is) take a beating in the final might have something to do with it. Silver sucks… The sentiment will change, people say, when time has passed and I will still be proud of that silver medal of my team and my son, they say. I am not sure about that. My son did not need to get a medal for me to be proud of his achievements in the first place. My team however did… And it had to be gold.
Different teams, different objectives. Different times, different objectives as well… I remember the joy and a proud feeling set in within 5 minutes after losing the gold medal during the Olympics in 2012. Silver did not suck in those days… Quite the contrary. And look at the Argentinian men last Sunday, they were genuinely happy with the bronze medal… and they were right to be proud of their achievement. The Belgian men came in fifth and after an initial feeling of disappointment of not having made the semifinals I am sure players & supporters will look back at this tournament with a good feeling. Four years ago they were not even among the top 12 competing and the progression these last 10 years have been impressive. The Red Lions will move up the official world ranking to the fourth spot just behind the big 3 Australia, Netherlands and Germany because of their results in The Hague and are considered by everybody to be the number 1 challenger for these top 3 nations.
These last 3 years the Dutch have also grown from the weaker team among the top 3 to a solid number 2 position and they are the only team that has made every major global final these last years. They played the Olympic final in London, the final of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, the final of the World League in New Delhi and now the WC final in The Hague. No other nation has succeeded in this consistent performance. However in topsport, although important, consistency is seldom rewarded… peaking at the right time is. And out of the 4 major global tournaments the Aussies won 2, the Germans won the most important one (plus the bonus of the EC) and the Dutch only won the 1 and least important tournament which both others did not take very seriously to be honest.
I think all of us in Europe would benefit from a revised national championship. We do not play enough finals… and our competitions take too much time. Germany did not change their competition dates and it resulted in a unseen low 6th place for them, partly because of a lack of preparation. Other European countries took some more weeks to prepare, with the exception of Spain due to bad management (and a very poor performance was the result). But the Aussies always focus on their national team program a year ahead of both the Olympics and the World Cup and build towards this 1 peak moment where it all has to come together.
Time to rethink our existing competition formats…