World Cup Dream XI: what would a team of the best players in the world look like?

David Harte was FIH's Goalkeeper of the Year for both 2015 and 2016. Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images

To set the hockey World Cup up, we at ESPN decided to take an alternate route to just pointing out five top stars and five young talents likely to shine at the quadrennial event.

What if, instead of compiling those lists, we made a dream team at the start of the World Cup?

In selecting the starting XI, their coach, and seven substitutes, we kept two criteria in mind -- which are the players we would recommend to friends and family watching men's hockey for the first time in Bhubaneswar, and how best can they complement each other in a game situation and interchange positions without affecting the team's balance?

Goalkeeper - David Harte (age 30, 211 caps for Ireland)

Ireland have been relative lightweights in the men's game, but their recent record belies that. They picked up bronze at the European Championships ahead of England and Belgium in 2015, qualified for their first Olympics in 2016, and now return for just their third World Cup -- and the first since 1990 -- and much of this has been down to their outstanding shot-stopper Harte, who also wears the captain's armband for them.

Highly rated by his peers -- also the second-most expensive goalkeeper in the Hockey India League (HIL) after PR Sreejesh of India -- his form saw him pick up FIH's Goalkeeper of the Year for both 2015 and 2016.

Fullbacks - Arthur van Doren (24, 144 caps for Belgium) and Matthew Swann (29, 177 caps for Australia)

Two things unite Arthur van Doren and Matthew Swann -- their exceptional reading of the game, and an ability to stand out in teams that play free-flowing, attacking hockey. If Swann was a key member of the Australian team that won the World Cup in 2014, van Doren's maturity saw him make his Belgium debut at 17.

While both are winners of the FIH Young Player of the Year awards, van Doren made history in 2017 by picking up both the Young Player and Player of the Year award in for the same season.

Centre-halves - Gonzalo Peillat (26, 145 caps for Argentina) and Mink van der Weerden (30, 133 caps for Netherlands)

More than their solid defensive prowess, Peillat and van der Weerden will both bring their explosive drag-flicking ability to make this team a difficult one to play against. Both players are two of the most accurate and powerful exponents of modern hockey's biggest scoring weapon, and their physical presence in defence will help take some of the load off Harte in goal.

Wide midfielders - Lucas Vila (32, 216 caps for Argentina) and Faizal Saari (27, 221 caps for Malaysia)

Vila and Saari offer the attributes you would take any day for players in their positions: speed, creativity, control and finishing ability. Saari is also one of the rare attacking players who converts penalty corners, and that will help add more variety to the set-pieces for this dream team.

Central midfielders - Manpreet Singh (26, 238 caps for India) and Robbert Kemperman (28, 198 caps for Netherlands)

Manpreet will add spine to this team, with his inherent ability to add an extra player in defence when needed, while Kemperman's control makes him one of the most difficult central players to defend against.

Manpreet and Kemperman also offer versatility in their favoured sides of the pitch -- they can interchange seamlessly not just among themselves, but also drop wider to let Saari and Vila come further up the centre and join the attack.

Strikers - Sam Ward (27, 100 caps for England/Great Britain) and Christopher Ruhr (24, 117 caps for Germany)

This was the toughest choice to make -- Bhubaneswar will see some of the best outright forwards in action, in a sport where the emphasis on attack anyway sees teams stack up their formation with a number of striking options.

Ward and Ruhr stand out for contrasting reasons -- the Englishman is one of the bravest goal-poachers in the opposition half, while Ruhr is a skilful, speedy attacker who creates openings for his teammates with his relentless pressure.

N.B. all caps as of November 15, 2018

Coach - Max Caldas (Netherlands)

Caldas played the Olympics of 1996 and 2004 as a defender for Argentina, but has fashioned himself into one of the most attack-minded coaches in modern hockey, having won the Olympic gold and the World Cup with the Netherlands women's team in 2012 and 2014, respectively, before taking charge of the men four years ago. He's also as outspoken as coaches get, and that makes him a reporter's delight.

Substitutes - George Pinner (England), Loick Luypaert (Belgium), Austin Smith (South Africa), Tobias Hauke (Germany), Hayden Phillips (New Zealand), Enrique Gonzalez (Spain) and Seve van Ass (Netherlands)

Pinner mans the goal, while Luypaert and Smith add defensive options, as well as PC conversion in case of the former. Hauke can be the man to control the middle of the pitch, while young attacking midfielders Phillips and Gonzalez will keep pushing the opposition back as and when they replace any of the starting lineup. Seve van Ass is one of the best finishers in the game and can easily complement or replace any of the starting players.