KUALA LUMPUR: Reigning World Cup winners, Germany, are expected to remain the leading contenders for the men’s hockey gold medal at the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics, scheduled from July 26 to Aug 11.

The four-time champions (1972, 1992, 2008, 2012), who will be gunning to wrest back the Olympic title after a decade, however, are expected to face stiff resistance from defending champion Belgium, two-time champions the Netherlands, 2004 winner Australia and the most title winners, India.

Former national head coach A. Arul Selvaraj picks Germany as the force to be reckoned with, because Andre Henning’s side has been rebuilding since winning the 2023 World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.

He also believes that the prowess of drag flicker Gonzalo Peillat, who helped Argentina for their first Olympic crown at the 2016 Rio Games before switching sides to Germany in 2022, will also greatly increase the team’s strength.

“Germany plays the most simplest hockey in the world, but with the most disciplined and economical approach, in the sense that they do it everything in the most simplest and easy way. They’re in the rebuilding process, so will use all the minor tournaments to test their players, and eventually they know how to win matches.

“Having Peillat is a big advantage for Germany, he has won the Olympic medal with Argentina, and World Cup with Germany, so it will be interesting to watch. For me, you never stop learning and the Olympics is the time that I spend a lot of time just taking notes,” he told Bernama.

Arul, who has experience coaching in South Africa and Ireland, said Belgium, who lost the World Cup title to Germany after a penalty shootout, Netherlands and Australia will be the other favourite teams.

“Belgium are having a more difficult scenario in the sense that they’re rebuilding with more younger players. Netherlands are rising under coach Jeroen Delmee, and can see the team, the way they play and progress, a lot of young players coming through, very nice to watch them play,” he added.

Arul feels the only Asian team to qualify in the men’s hockey event, India, will also be an interesting and capable team at the Yves-du-Manoir Stadium, Paris, to end their four-decade drought for gold since winning the 1980 Moscow edition.

“India got an abundance of players with great qualities. I heard they’re excited to change their medal colour after winning bronze in Tokyo 2020,” he said.

At the Paris Games, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, hosts France and South Africa have been drawn in Group A, while Group B comprise Belgium, India, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Ireland, with only the top four teams in each group advancing to the quarter-finals.

India is the most successful team in the men’s hockey with eight titles (1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1980), followed by Germany with four, while Great Britain ((1908, 1920, 1988) and Pakistan (1960, 1968, 1984) have emerged victorious three times each.