Friday 28 June is men’s semi-finals day at the FIH Pro League Grand Final, with two world class matches featuring the four highest finishers in the regular FIH Pro League season taking place on the second of four days of top-class hockey action at Amsterdam’s Wagener Stadium.
Table-toppers Australia (WR:2) face fourth place finishers Great Britain (WR:7) at 1715 ahead of a meeting between world champions Belgium (WR:1) and European champions the Netherlands (WR:3), who finished second and third in the standings respectively, at 2000. The winners of the men’s semi-finals will meet in the title match on Sunday 30 June, with the losing teams playing in the 3-4 play-off.
Information about and quotes from the teams taking part in the semi-finals can be found below, with a complete list of fixtures for the four-day showpiece available here.
Australia vs Great Britain (1stvs 4th FIH Pro League)
Previous FIH Pro League meetings
16 February 2019: Australia 2-0 Great Britain – Perth Hockey Stadium (AUS)
9 June 2019: Great Britain 2-2 Australia (4-3 after shoot-out) – Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre, London (ENG)
FIH Hero World Ranking (as of January 2019): 2
How they qualified: 1st Place – FIH Pro League
FIH Pro League results summary: Pl: 14 Wins: 10 Draws: 2 SO-Bonus: 0 Losses: 2 GF: 40 GA: 26 GD: 14 Pts: 32
Notable honours: Olympic gold medallists (2004), 3x Olympic silver medallists (1968, 1976, 1992), 5x Olympic bronze medallists (1964, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012), 3x FIH Men’s World Cup winners (1986, 2010, 2014), Hockey World League champions (2015, 2017), 15x Champions Trophy winners (1983, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1999, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2018), 6x Commonwealth Games gold medallists (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018), 10x Oceania Cup champions (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017).
About the team:Australia – coached former Kookaburra Colin Batch, a gold medallist at the 1986 FIH Men’s World Cup in Willesden, England – secured a first-place finish by winning ten of their 14 matches, recording notable away wins over world champions Belgium, Olympic champions Argentina and European champions the Netherlands. The Kookaburras squad is packed full of quality and experience. The 350 capped Eddie Ockenden co-captains the team alongsideinfluential defender / midfielder Aran Zalewski, while Matthew Swann, Jake Whetton and goalkeeping duo Tyler Lovell and Andrew Charter have performed excellently this year. Blake Govers, Jeremy Hayward, Tim Brand, Daniel Beale, Jacob Anderson, Tom Wickham and Tom Craig have all made significant goal-scoring contributions over the course of the FIH Pro League. Make no mistake about it, the Kookaburras are serious contenders for the title.
Coach Comment – Colin Batch: “The FIH Pro League has seen us play against the best over a six-month period. We’re really excited about the finals – we’ve been working towards this point since January and now we’re here. The renovated [Wagener] stadium is fantastic, and we know that the hockey fans will make it a great experience for us.”
FIH Hero World Ranking (as of January 2019): 7
How they qualified: 4thPlace – FIH Pro League
FIH Pro League results summary: Pl: 14 Wins: 6 Draws: 3 SO-Bonus: 1 Losses: 5 GF: 35 GA: 31 GD: 4 Pts: 22
Notable honours: 2x Olympic gold medallists (1920, 1988), Olympic silver medallists (1948), 2x Olympic bronze medallists (1952, 1984), FIH Champions Trophy silver medallists (1985), 2x FIH Champions Trophy bronze medallists (1978, 1984)
About the team: Great Britain’s qualification for the FIH Pro League Grand Final was achieved in dramatic fashion on the final day of the regular league season. A 4-1 defeat for Olympic champions Argentina against world champions Belgium in Antwerp denied the Pan American giants the point they needed to guarantee qualification, with Great Britain’s 2-0 victory over New Zealand in front of 12,000 fans on a magnificent occasion at the Twickenham Stoop – where pioneering technology has been used to lay a temporary hockey pitch in a rugby stadium – being enough to put GB into the final four by virtue of a superior goal difference. The team coached by Danny Kerry have achieved some eye-catching results this year, claiming away wins in Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and New Zealand. Phil Roper (8 goals), Sam Ward (8) and Alan Forsyth (5) have been in devastating goal-scoring form, bagging 21 of Great Britain’s 35 goals in the FIH Pro League. The recent return of all-time top scorer Ashley Jackson has further increased their attacking potency, making GB a side more than capable of causing an upset in Amsterdam.
Player Perspective – Adam Dixon (captain): “It’s a bit of a relief to be honest. It’s been a long league with a lot of trips, travelling and time away from home. And to make it all worthwhile with an appearance at the Grand Finals makes it all the more sweet. We’re excited to be there, to go and express ourselves on what is a nothing-to-lose-everything-to-gain weekend in Amsterdam.”
Belgium vs Netherlands (2ndvs 3rd)
FIH Hero World Ranking (as of January 2019): 1
How they qualified: 2ndPlace – FIH Pro League
FIH Pro League results summary:
Pl:14 Wins: 8 Draws: 3 SO-Bonus: 1 Losses: 3 GF: 52 GA: 29 GD: 23 Pts: 28
Notable honours: World Cup winners – Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, Olympic silver medallists (2016), Olympic bronze medallists (1920), Hockey World League silver medallists (2015), European silver medallists (2013, 2017), European bronze medallists (2007), 5th place – Olympic Games (2012), 5th place – Rabobank Hockey World Cup (2014), 5th place – Hero Hockey Champions Trophy (2014).
About the team: Reigning world champions Belgium finished second in the standings with eight wins from 14 matches, recording excellent away victories against Olympic champions Argentina, Australia and Great Britain. The team coached by New Zealander Shane McLeod suffered a double set-back in home and away defeats against the Netherlands but responded magnificently with an 8-0 away demolition of Germany before thrashing New Zealand 4-0. While a recent 2-0 home loss against Australia indicates they are not infallible, the Red Lions remain the team to beat. Blessed with world class players such as Cedric Charlier, Arthur Van Doren and goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch and still basking in the afterglow of last year’s amazing world cup triumph, Belgium will feel that the inaugural FIH Pro League title is theirs for the taking.
Player Perspective – Thomas Briels (captain):“I think it’s going to be great in Amsterdam – there are always a lot of people as well as the four best teams of the moment. It is going to be a big challenge, after a long season and a lot of games. Now it’s up to us to be at the best we can be in these two games.”
FIH Hero World Ranking (as of January 2019): 3
How they qualified: 3rd Place – FIH Pro League
FIH Pro League results summary: Pl: 14 Wins: 5 Draws: 5 SO-Bonus: 3 Losses: 4 GF: 37 GA: 32 GD: 5 Pts: 23
Notable honours: 2x Olympic gold medallists (1996, 2000), 3x FIH Men’s World Cup winners (1973, 1990, 1998), 8x FIH Champions Trophy winners (1981, 1982, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006), Hockey World League winners (2012- 14 Edition), 5x European champions (1983, 1987, 2007, 2015, 2017).
About the team: Led by globally respected tactician Max Caldas, the former Argentina international who guided the Dutch women to the World Cup title in 2014, European champions the Netherlands are phenomenally gifted and capable of beating anyone on their day. Defeated by Belgium in the final of last year’s FIH World Cup, the Oranje have certainly got the better of their near neighbours in the FIH Pro League. A Bjorn Kellerman double earned a 4-0 away win over the Red Lions in Antwerp on 8 June, with the Dutch winning 4-3 in the reverse fixture in s-Hertogenbosch just one day later. Those results give a good indication of their undisputed quality, and if they rediscover that form at the FIH Pro League Grand Final they could take some stopping.
Player Perspective – Seve van Ass: “I think the Grand Final games are going to be really close. If you look at the whole Pro League it’s so close. I expect tight games, but fun. High level games and I’m looking forward to it.”