NEW DELHI: Dutch hockey star Stephan Veen, a two-time World Cup and Olympic winner, thinks India has improved significantly as a team in the previous few years and is one of his top picks for the World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela next year.
India broke a more than four-decade medal drought in the Tokyo Olympics last year, winning a bronze medal, and had to settle for silver at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022.
One of the major players of the successful Dutch squad of the 1990s, Veen, said, "India has improved as a team, in my opinion, during the past few years. Now that they are at home, they are significantly more experienced. India would therefore be one of my top choices. Australia comes to mind as well. But be mindful of Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands " It's challenging to anticipate outcomes in competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics because there are frequently a few surprises (the winner). Great games are coming up for fans, which is wonderful for our sport "The renowned midfielder said his legendary words.
The 16 teams playing in the competition are Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, India, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, England, France, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, South Africa, Japan, Chile, and Wales. The event is set to take place in January of next year.
The World Cup-winning captain explained that a fantastic combination of leadership, tactics, and player calibre were the assets of his squad in the 1990s when asked about the reasons behind Netherlands' consistency during his tenure.
"Of course, we had a fantastic squad; it was quite a high calibre. The Dutch prefer to attack, but I believe that with excellent penalty corner specialists and midfielders, we have achieved the right mix between defending and attacking. I also think that the squad had good leadership; in addition to the captains, players also stepped up when necessary during the game "commented Veen, the 1998 and 2000 FIH Player of the Year.
"Think, I It all begins with having the mindset to get better with each game and each training session, as well as the perseverance to keep going in the face of obstacles. If the team shares that mindset, you have a strong foundation upon which to expand. In the 1990s, a number of athletes shared that mindset.
"There were various personalities, each with their own techniques and leadership philosophies. Our strength was that our adversary was unable to foresee where danger would lurk. We also benefited from the coaches' strategies at that time. However, it's the little things that count and we were able to recognise those crucial moments as the game progressed " he added.
When the former midfielder was just 19 years old, the Netherlands won the 1990 World Cup in Lahore, earning their first accolades. He played for a Dutch team that won the competition by defeating the Pakistani hosts 3-1 in the final.
Veen assumed the captaincy of the Netherlands following his country's success at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and under his leadership, the team had more victories, including home World Cup victory in 1998 and Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000. In front of their home fans in Utrecht, the Netherlands won the 1998 World Cup by defeating Spain 3-2 in the Final.