By Avinash Kr Atish
New Delhi, Jan 8 (SocialNews.XYZ) The 15th edition of FIH Hockey Men's World Cup, which has now completed over 50 years in existence, is all set to get underway on January 13 in Odisha, with 16 countries hoping to lay their hands on the prestigious trophy at the end of the mega event.
The 2023 edition of the tournament will be the first time a nation has played host to the World Cup for two successive editions. However, unlike in 2018, the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar will not be the only venue, as the brand-new Birsa Munda Hockey stadium in Rourkela will split hosting duties for the upcoming World Cup.
As far as history is concerned, hockey shared an intricate bond with the Olympic Games, ever since its first introduction in 1908 London Games.
However, the history of the hockey World Cup is much more recent in comparison, with the first edition being played in 1971.
The early years of hockey history was largely dominated by Asian teams as India and Pakistan between them won 11 of the first 15 gold medals at the Olympic games.
However, the game started getting global popularity among the European nations in the late 60s and early 70s and the introduction of the artificial grass surface further changed the global dynamics of hockey.
The increased pace of the game saw Asian teams struggle to modify their decades-long style of play, while the European teams found their footing on the surface rather swiftly.
With the increasing popularity and sudden shift away from Asian domination, the concept of a hockey World Cup was born in 1969, in an attempt to add to the Olympic Games which were the only international tournaments for the sport at the time.
The idea of a hockey World Cup was first proposed jointly by India and Pakistan in an International Hockey Federation council meeting in March 1969.
At the time, the World Cup was proposed as a biennial event, and Pakistan Hockey Federation chief Air Marshal Nur Khan (who is also credited for first conceptualising the Champions Trophy) proposed the inaugural edition of the World Cup to be held in Pakistan.
The proposal for the World Cup was accepted, but due to increasingly tense relations between India and Pakistan, the two most successful hockey teams at that point in time, the inaugural edition was played in Spain, instead of Pakistan.
Pakistan emerged as the first winners of the FIH World Cup, narrowly beating Spain 1-0 in the final. After the first World Cup in 1971, there have been a total of 14 editions of the tournament so far, which saw plenty of mind-boggling records created and surpassed.
IANS takes a look at the history of men's hockey over the past five decades in some interesting numbers.
Most number of titles/medals
Pakistan, the champions of the inaugural edition of the event, have won the most World Cups in the men's event, with 4 gold medals. Through the first 8 editions of the men's World Cup, Pakistan amassed 4 gold and 2 silver, making them the most successful team in the tournament.
Pakistan won their 4th gold medal at the World Cup in Sydney in 1994, but no other team has been able to equal their gold medal tally so far.
Australia and Netherlands come in next with 3 gold medals each. Australia have won a total of 10 medals at the World Cups, which is the most amongst all nations. Australia's tally includes 3 gold, 2 silver and 5 bronze.
The Netherlands have won 9 medals at the world cup, with 3 golds, 4 silver and 2 bronze. Both The Netherlands and Australia were among the medals at the 2018 World Cup, with Netherlands finishing runner-up behind Belgium, while Australia won the bronze medal.
Australia last won the gold at the 2014 World Cup, while The Netherlands' wait for a men's World Cup gold has been really long, having last won the World Cup at the 1998 edition. The Netherlands has gotten close to the elusive 4th gold medal at both 2014 and 2018 World Cups, ending with the silver medal at both editions.
Meanwhile, Germany have won 2 gold medals,with the last one coming in 2006. India and Belgium are the other two teams to have won gold medals at the FIH Hockey Men's World Cup, with India's victory coming in 1975, while Belgium are the reigning world and the Olympic champions.
Highest winning percentage
Australia boast of the highest win percentage at the men's World Cups, winning 69 of the 92 matches they have played in, which is an outstanding 75 percentage.
Australia are followed by Germany, who have played 47 World Cup matches and have gone on to win 29 of them with a win percentage of 61.7. The Netherlands is not far behind with 61 per cent as they have played 100 matches and won 61 of them.
Pakistan, who are the most successful country in World Cup history, are the next team with the highest percentage. They have played 89 World Cup matches and won 51, with a win percentage of 57.3.
Most number of matches played
The Netherlands have played the most number of matches at the World Cup, completing 100 matches in the finals of the 2018 World Cup, ahead of India, who have played 95 matches. It is followed by Spain (94 matches), England (94 matches) and Australia (92 matches).
Most number of goals scored/saved
Australia also have produced the most attacking hockey at the World Cups, scoring 307 goals in the 92 matches, at a rate of 3.3 goals per game. Netherlands and Pakistan have the next best scoring averages, with Netherlands averaging 2.67 goals scored per game and Pakistan averaging 2.64 goals per game.
Australia also have a phenomenal defensive record at the World Cups, letting in just 107 goals in their 92 games, at an average of 1.16 per game.
Most appearances as a team in the World Cup
India, Netherlands and Spain are the only teams to have appeared in all 14 editions so far, and all three teams will also appear at the upcoming World Cup, making it 15 appearances in a row. Argentina, Australia, England and Pakistan have appeared in 13 editions so far, with only Pakistan missing out on the 2023 edition.
A total of 26 nations have competed at the 14 editions of the men's World Cup so far. Chile and Wales will take the number up to 28 as they make their debut appearances at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela.