20:08:2015; as we gear up for the last day before the start of the Unibet EuroHockey Championship, we have an overview of the Women’s teams starting with Pool A;
Women’s Pool A
Netherlands – world number 1
Champions in eight of the eleven tournaments that have been staged to date and the world women’s number one, the Netherlands are hungry to win back the title in London this week. Indeed, 2013 was just one of two occasions in which the Dutch missed out on the final of the European championships.
Since then, the Dutch have won the World Cup before Sjoerd Marijne came into the coaching role. In his tenure to date, they secured a bronze at the Champions Trophy before beating Korea to first place in the World League semi-final in Antwerp.
From that winning squad that earned Olympic qualification, Marijne has made two changes with Anne Veenendaal replacing Larissa Meijer as second choice goalkeeper behind Joyce Sombroek while Valerie Magis comes into the team in place of Laura Nunnink. Frederique Derkx continues to struggle with an injury and so misses out once more.
Nonetheless, the Dutch is a fearsome prospect with global superstars Maartje Paumen, Ellen Hoog, Naomi van As and Eva de Goede in full flow and they are the team to beat. Coach Marijne says the tournament is “not just preparation for the Olympics; we will go out to grab the big prize”.
Belgium – world number 12
The Red Panthers’ best finish came two years ago in Boom, narrowly missing out on a medal following a semi-final defeat in a shoot-out against Germany before succumbing to the Dutch 3-1 in the bronze medal match. They will draw plenty of confidence, though, from their 2-1 warm-up victory over the Netherlands while they also beat Germany 3-2 last Friday.
They have a point to prove having missed out on Olympic qualification in Antwerp last month via the World League, meaning only a gold medal here will snatch them a ticket to Rio 2016. Coach Pascal Kina has one enforced change with Anne-Sophie De Scheemaekere indicating that she is not available for selection. She is replaced by Joanne Peeters while Anne-Sophie Weyns and Caroline Struijk just miss out on a place in the 18-player squad.
The engine room of the team will once again be the powerful Stephanie De Groof, while Alix Gerniers and Barbara Nelen can be relied on to lead the attack. Their opening game on Saturday morning against Spain could go a long way to deciding who makes the semi-final spots.
Spain – world number 14
During the World League semi-final in Valencia, Spain showed they are back on a rising curve and able to mix it with top ten sides. This was evident in their draw with China and draw with Argentina while they only missed out on a direct Olympic place in a shoot-out against Germany in a thrilling quarter-final battle. They must either win this competition or wait and see how the remaining three continental qualifiers pan out if they want to go to Rio.
Georgina Oliva was named player of the tournament there and her dynamic presence in between defence and midfield makes the side tick. Maria Lopez de Eguilaz is a fine goalkeeper and there is plenty of experience to draw on in captain Roccio Ybarra and Gloria Comerma. Lola Riera’s drag-flick can do damage if the bouncing Berta Bonastre can use her speed to win the corners. They make just one change from Valencia with Patricia Marana coming in for Maria Gomez
As for their prior performances, Spain have twice won silver at the EuroHockey championships – in Amstelveen in 1995 and Barcelona in 2003 – but 2013 saw the side slip out of the top four for the first time since 1999 with a fifth place finish in Boom
Poland – world number 24
The Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 will see Poland women make their debut, marking their sharp rise into the elite of European hockey, moving to the top tier following a second place finish in Cambrai two years ago.
Consistency has been the key for this Polish team. For the past few years the same group of players have been involved in the national team, guided by head coach Krzysztof Rachwalski. To that end, they make just one change from the World League semi-final panel with Martyna Wypijewska coming in for Monika Polewczak.
They have been gaining in confidence due to an increased number of high quality games in 2015, finishing second at WL round two in India before getting a rare chance to play against the likes of Australia, Belgium, India and New Zealand in Antwerp. They finished on a high with a 5-1 win over France for a ninth place finish and captain Marlena Rybacha says the experience was invaluable for the side.
“The tournament was a great but painful lesson for us, but we were happy to be there and have that experience. We are now more aware of how much work is still front of us and which direction we need to go to get better.”
** Click here for the full interview with Marlena Rybacha
Photograph: Poland’s Marlena Rybacha and Belgium’s Emilie Sinia (Frank Uijlenbroek (c)
UK and Ireland – BBC (England, Scotland and Irish matches and Finals – BBC red button, BBC2 if England reaches finals)
- BBC Red Button – www.bbc.com/sport/0/hockey/33616830
The Netherlands – NOS (all Dutch games, finals and daily highlights packages)
Germany – Sport 1 (all German matches, men’s final) and ZDF/ARD (highlights package)
Belgium – Telenet (all Belgian matches, semi-finals and finals)
Spain – Teledeporte (all Spanish matches and finals)
France – Ma Chaine (all French matches)
Southern Africa – Supersport (semi-finals and finals)
Event Website – www.eurohockey2015.co.uk
Follow us on – @EuroHockey2015 / @eurohockeyorg #EHC2015 / #UEHC2015