Hosts India have been grouped with Belgium, Canada and South Africa in an easy Pool C in the opening round of the Hockey World Cup, to be held in Bhubaneswar from 28 November to 16 December, it was announced on Wednesday.
In Pool C, for World No 6 India, Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists Belgium are the only higher-ranked team, at World No 3, while Canada and African continental champions and South Africa have world rankings of 11 and 15, respectively.
India will meet South Africa on the opening day. They play Belgium on 2 December, and six days later, will lock horns with Canada at the 16,000-capacity Kalinga Stadium.
The 16 participating teams have been split into four pools of four, with Rio 2016 Olympic champions and World No 2 Argentina competing in Pool A alongside No 9 New Zealand, No 8 Spain and No 18 France, while reigning world champions and No 1 Australia take on No 7 England, No 10 Ireland and No 17 China in Pool B.
Pool D seems to be the toughest, with European champions and three-time world champions the Netherlands (No 4), two-time champions Germany (No 5), Malaysia (No 12) and No.13 and record champions Pakistan battling among themselves to be the top two teams in order to progress to the quarter-finals.
A first place finish in each pool will guarantee a berth in the quarter-finals, with the second and third place finishers in each pool needing to win a cross-over match.
The pool phase of the competition will take place from 28 November to 9 December, with two matches per day being played at 5 pm and 7 pm.
Each day of action will be pool-focussed, with the opening day's play featuring two matches in Pool C as Shane McLeod's Belgium take on Canada before hosts India facing South Africa.
There are numerous eye-catching fixtures in the pool phase, including the mouth-watering Pool D meeting of two former world champions in Germany and Pakistan on 1 December, Asia champions India taking on European giants Belgium on 2 December and England aiming to upset the odds against the mighty Kookaburras of Australia on 4 December.
The crossover matches will be played on 10 and 11 December. The quarter-finals will take place on 12 and 13 December, semi-finals on 15 December, and the bronze medal match and the final on 16 December.
Pool A: Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, France
Pool B: Australia, England, Ireland, China
Pool C: Belgium, India, Canada, South Africa
Pool D: Netherlands, Germany, Malaysia, Pakistan
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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2018 17:34:38 IST