GREAT BRITAIN: The host nation is always invited to send a team, and Great Britain will be no stranger to the field hockey event. While England, Scotland, and Wales routinely play as their own countries in events, the three countries join forces for the Olympics under the watch of Hockey England. The British will go in as a favorite, but there will be some excellent teams in the event, so the British men will have to be at their best if they want to capture gold on their home soil.
Colors: red, white, and blue.
Medals: 2 gold (1920, 1988), 1 silver, 2 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: n/a (England - 4th, Scotland - 22nd, Wales - 27th).
PAKISTAN: Pakistan was the first team to qualify for the Olympics when they won the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China in November 2010. Pakistan is always a dangerous foe as they play the game as well as any of the teams. Pakistan has a vast number of players who play in either India or Pakistan, so there isn't much attention given to the games of the European nations' styles of play as it should be given. This could be the Achilles' heel of the Pakistani team in this year's Olympiad.
Colors: green, white.
Medals: 3 gold (1960, 1968, 1984), 3 silver, 2 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 8th.
GERMANY: Germany was one of three European teams to qualify for the Olympics at the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championship in Mönchengladbach, Germany in August 2011. The Germans always pose a threat at the Olympics as they continually find ways to score. The Germans have an excellent youth squad, and see a vast number of players promoted to the senior team from their program. This continues the continuity and familiarity amongst players, and makes Germany a medal favorite.
Colors: black, red, white.
Medals: 3 gold (1972, 1992, 2008), 3 silver, 3 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 2nd.
NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands has a long legacy of capturing medals at the Olympics, and they take another shot after qualifying alongside Germany at the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championship. The Netherlands boasts strong club play where the vast portion of their squad is selected. The Netherlands, like Germany, continue to produce high-quality players through their training programs, and this allows their teams to grow together. The Netherlands are a safe bet for a medal in most Olympics.
Colors: orange, white, navy blue.
Medals: 2 gold (1996, 2000), 3 silver, 3 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 3rd.
BELGIUM: The Belgians were the third team to qualify from the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championship. Belgium's field hockey medal count pales in comparison to the other two European qualifiers, but a coaching change in 2007 has swung the fortunes of this team to the positive. Adam Commens has boosted the level of support in his country for the sport, and the result is a second-straight Olympic berth for the Belgians. Prior to 2008, the Belgians last competed in the Olympic field hockey event in 1976. While they won't be a favorite to medal, the Belgians are showing that the sport is growing within their borders.
Colors: red, black, white, yellow.
Medals: 1 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 11th.
AUSTRALIA: The Australian team comes in as a favorite thanks to their world ranking and having captured medals in the last five Olympic Games. Australia qualified through 2011 Oceania Cup held in October 2011 in Hobart, Australia. Australia is always a dangerous foe, and they routinely compete abroad in order to challenge themselves. They are one of Australia's most successful teams, and they will have a fan contingent following them in London. Expect to see the "Kookaburras" competing for a medal in London.
Colors: yellow, green.
Medals: 1 gold (2004), 3 silver, 4 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 1st.
NEW ZEALAND: The "Black Sticks" also qualified through the 2011 Oceania Cup with Australia. New Zealand has a number of players who compete with local clubs, but the vast majority of their team plays in Australia with their clubs. New Zealand may also be seen as an "also-ran" due to their finishing between fifth- and ninth-place in most Olympics, but they do have one medal to speak of when they defeated Australia in the final. Perhaps this year may see them perform the feat again?
Colors: black, gray, white, light blue.
Medals: 1 gold (1976).
FIH World Ranking: 7th.
ARGENTINA: The Argentinians came on as a Western field hockey power near the turn of the century. They qualified for the London Olympics by winning the 2011 Pan American Games in October 2011 in Guadalajara, Mexico. While the Argentinians won't rank highly on anyone's list as a medal favorite, there's a good chance that Argentina will do its best in derailing one of the favorites. Argentina has never finished higher than ninth-place in any Olympic Games.
Colors: light blue, white, blue, black.
FIH World Ranking: 9th.
INDIA: Another of the mainstays in this tournament, India qualified for the Olympics by winning the first Olympic Qualification Tournament in New Delhi, India in February 2012. India has fallen from grace after dominating the sport in the mid-20th century. While they are still a highly-competitive squad, they have not appeared on the medal podium since 1980. They'll need a big showing in London to break that drought.
Colors: light blue, white, navy blue, orange.
Medals: 8 gold (1928-1956, 1964, 1980), 1 silver, 2 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 10th.
KOREA: The South Koreans gained entrance to the Olympic tournament by winning the second Olympic Qualification Tournament in Dublin, Ireland in March 2012. The Koreans are not a medal favorite after having picked up only one medal in the five Olympics they have competed in, but the Koreans are scrappy. They play solid defence, but will most likely be overpowered by the better teams. Look for Korea to pull off at least one upset in the tournament.
Colors: red, blue, white.
Medals: 1 silver.
FIH World Ranking: 6th.
SOUTH AFRICA: The South Africans captured the last Olympic Qualification Tournament spot by winning the tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan in May 2012. The South Africans actually turned down an earlier qualifying spot after having won the 2011 African Olympic Qualifier in September 2011 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, citing that the African Qualifying Tournament was "sub-standard". They requested that they be forced to qualify against tougher opposition, and did so in Japan. While commendable in their efforts, the South Africans will most likely come up short when vying for a spot on the podium. In their three Olympic appearances, they have finished no higher than tenth-place.
Colors: yellow, green.
FIH World Ranking: 12th.
SPAIN: Because the earlier African Qualifying Tournament saw no team qualify, and because South Africa qualified later, there was one open spot for a team to fill. If you've been keeping track of the teams through their World Rankings, you'll find that fifth-place is missing. Spain was invited without qualifying due to their standing in the World Rankings, and they will certainly be a force. With the exception of the 200 Olympics, Spain has steadily gotten better, picking up a pair of medals in their last five Olympic appearances. While gold has still eluded the team, the Spaniards might be the darkhorse in this event if they can survive the preliminary round.
Colors: yellow, red, black.
Medals: 3 silver, 1 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 5th.
Pool A in the tournament will consist of Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Pakistan, Argentina, and South Africa. Australia is almost a certain to advance, and the second team will be one of either Great Britain or Pakistan. If I were a betting man, I'd say that Great Britain, spurred on by the roar of the home crowd, will most likely advance.
Pool B will see Germany, Netherlands, Korea, New Zealand, India, and Belgium compete for the two spots in medal-round playoffs. I'm hunching that the Netherlands will advance with Germany edging out India to capture the second spot.
I'll be posting the schedule as we near, but there are your twelve men's teams that will compete for gold in London. Do you agree with my picks? Are you getting excited for the Olympics at all? Do you even care? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!