Great Britain kick off their quest for Olympic Qualification at the World League semi-final in Valencia today, and England Hockey have taken a look at the teams they are up against in the pool stages.
Ranked eighth in the world, Danny Kerry’s side are in a pool with hosts Spain, China, Canada and old foes Argentina, with four of the five sides in the group qualifying for the quarter finals.
Playing as England, the team had a good World League campaign last time out, finishing in the bronze medal position after a tense shootout win over Argentina in Las Leonas’ own back yard.
New faces have come into the group with Clifton’s Joie Leigh, Slough’s Shona McCallin looking impressive in their fledgling international careers. The experienced players too have really stepped up of late, with Alex Danson who took her tally of international goals to 80 in the recent series with Japan, looking as lively and dangerous as she ever has.
The noises coming from the Great Britain camp are positive. Strength in depth is good with a lot of competition for places and the recent Japan series has proved to be a good learning experience with head coach Danny Kerry commenting in the aftermath:
“Japan are a very disciplined side, strong in defence and pose good counterattacking threats. It’s about concentrating for the whole game and it was perfect for us in the lead up to the Olympic qualifiers.”
The mood is positive, the players are ready, and all that remains is for Great Britain to do the business. It should be a memorable tournament.
Argentina. FIH World Ranking: 3.
Argentina have been one of the big hitters in women’s hockey for some time. They have won five of the last six Champions Trophy tournaments and also claimed the bronze medal at the 2014 World Cup and silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Luciana Aymar, the eight-time winner of the FIH Player of the Year Award has called it a day, but there is still plenty of talent within their squad. Carla Rebecchi and defender Noel Barrionuevo are experienced and quality players, while 2014 FIH Young Player of the Year Florencia Habif is rated as one of the most exciting emerging talents in the game. They will certainly be regarded as one of the teams to beat in Valencia.
GB record vs. Argentina: P: 29 W: 10 D: 5 L: 14 GF: 43 GA: 44
China. FIH World Ranking: 7.
The silver medallists from the 2008 Olympics have undergone a transitional phase since then, but are now starting to see the fruits of that labour. The vast majority of players that have featured in recent squads are aged 23 or under, with a smattering of experience added in to create a balance. Wang Mengyu, the 23-year-old defender is fast developing a reputation as a feared penalty corner threat and will be one to watch out for. Their progress has been steady but they are not to be taken lightly.
GB record vs. China: P: 8 W: 5 D: 1 L: 2 GF: 14 GA: 7
Spain. FIH World Ranking: 15.
The hosts have a fairly modest world ranking but there is a lot of buzz that they may be a dark horse at this competition. Great Britain defeated them in a recent test series but Coach Danny Kerry felt their world ranking does not do them justice and he expects them to be a threat in Valencia.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Adrian Lock, Spain’s women are getting back to their best. The Englishman has a youthful but extremely talented group of players. Key players include battling midfielder Georgina Oliva and 22-year-old Berta Bonastre, the younger sister of Silvia Bonastre, who represented Spain at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. They also have Rocío Ybarra. The captain is one of the most important players in group having been in the side for over a decade.
GB record vs. Spain: P: 39 W: 22 D: 10 L: 7 GF: 68 GA: 43
Canada. FIH World Ranking: 20.
A 2nd place finish at the Hockey World League Round 2 event in Dublin earned Canada a place in the HWL Semi-Finals. They finished above two higher-ranked nations in the final standings, and pushed host nation Ireland all the way in the final. Hannah Haughn and Kaitlyn Williams, the respective Young Player and Goalkeeper of the Tournament, were both hugely impressive and will be looking to bring their outstanding form into the HWL Semi-Finals. Thea Culley was Canada’s top scorer in the Hockey World League Round 2, netting five times to help them to this stage of the competition. Canada’s women have not participated in an Olympic Games since Barcelona 1992. That is a streak that Head Coach Ian Rutledge will be determined to end this year.
GB record vs. Canada: P: 12 W: 6 D: 3 L: 3 GF: 21 GA: 13
You can follow all the action during the tournament live via Sky Sports. Details of all the TV coverage can be found here.
If you are unable to get to a live stream, you can follow all the updates via their Twitter feed @_GBHockey.
You can still get tickets to see Danny Kerry’s side compete as England at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre this summer as the Unibet Eurohockey Championships 2015 come to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Just visit this link and make sure you secure your seat at the hottest ticket in town this summer!
Report courtesy of www.englandhockey.co.uk where you can find in depth hockey information.