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WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: THE POOL WHERE ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN

June 29, 2022 09:52 AM

INDIAN HOCKEY WOMEN HAVE GROWN AND MATURED IN RECENT YEARS

LAUSANNE (SWITZERLAND): Pool B has all the makings of a highly competitive set of matches. All four teams – China, England, India and New Zealand – have undergone major rebuilding in the past few months and all four are teams that will have serious podium aspirations, REPORTS fih

Under the coaching team led by two-time FIH Coach of the Year Alyson Annan, China has shown in recent FIH Hockey Pro League matches that the team is making giant steps forward in combining Asian structure and high technical ability with the creativity and hard work ethic espoused by their coach.

China qualified with a fourth place finish at the Women’s Hockey Asia Cup 2022. The China team’s appearances at previous Women’s World Cups has not been auspicious. The best finish was third in 2002 and in 2018 they finished in 16th place. However, this team has some serious talent within its ranks and will be hoping to enjoy a far greater performance than four years ago. Drag flick specialist Gu Bingfeng presents danger at every penalty corner; the speedy and skilful Zheng Jiali can twist and turn through any defence; Li Hong is tall, quick and a fantastically brave first runner at penalty corners and goalkeeper Liu Ping has astonished spectators with her shot-stopping ability.

England is also a team that has not achieved the heights at previous World Cups it would have hoped for. A third place finish in 2010 is the best result for David Ralph’s team and he will be hoping the team, led by stalwart Hollie Pearne-Webb, will be peaking at just the right time.

England is also a team that has not achieved the heights at previous World Cups it would have hoped for. A third place finish in 2010 is the best result for David Ralph’s team and he will be hoping the team, led by stalwart Hollie Pearne-Webb, will be peaking at just the right time.

Pearne-Webb has some worthy lieutenants within the squad. Maddie Hinch is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world; barring injury Laura Unsworth will reach 300 caps at this event; Giselle Ansley, Lily Owsley and Shona McAllin all bring huge experience. Newer members of the squad include the attack-minded Tessa Howard, the super-skilful Hannah Martin and speedy Elena Rayer. The question is whether the team is still too immersed in its development stage.

India women, under the leadership of Dutch superstar Janneke Schopman, have grown and matured in recent years. In the FIH Hockey Pro League the Eves beat the Netherlands in a 2-1 shock result and they finished the Pro League in third place, despite being late entrants to the event.

India qualified via a third place finish at the Asia Cup 2022. The team is packed full of talent and their signature style of play is fast, flowing hockey that involves swift passing through the lines of play. Gurjit Kaur is always a danger from the top of the circle and Savita is a steady rock at the other end of the field as she guards the India goal. Devi Sharmila and Kaur Navneet are just two of a host of other creative players who will relish this chance on the big stage.

New Zealand are the unknown quantity in Pool B. They have not been seen outside Oceania since the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 but there has been a huge amount of change in the squad since then.

Olivia Merry continues to lead the attack and will be hopeful of adding to her incredible international scoring record. She is joint captain along with midfield stalwart Megan Hull and Head Coach Darren Smith and his coaching staff will be looking to these two players to lead a team that includes six players with less than 10 caps.

While New Zealand might have missed out on international experience in recent months, they have spent a huge amount of time preparing for this event and will be fit and ready to step back into the limelight.

Pool B is being played in Amstelveen at the Wagener Stadium. New Zealand and China take to the pitch on 2 July, while England play India the following day.

 
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