For the second time in less than 18 months, the Argentine city of Rosario will play host to the finest women’s international hockey teams in the world when the FIH Champions Trophy gets underway this Saturday. Host nation Argentina – who in September 2010 won the BDO FIH World Cup on home soil in front of thousands of impassioned fans – are joined by reigning champions The Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, China, New Zealand, Korea and Japan. It is a stellar line-up, with only the fast improving Japan sitting outside the top eight in the current FIH World Rankings. The competition will be fierce, with every team determined to ensure that they perform well in the last World Level tournament ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
This year’s Champions Trophy is the fourth to be hosted by Argentina, having previously held the tournament in 1995, 2004 and 2007. Incredibly, the team lead by seven times FIH Player of the Year Luciana Aymar are yet to win a Champions Trophy on home soil, having finished 6th in 1995, 3rd in 2004 and runners-up in 2007. If they continue that upward trend then a victory in Rosario could be on the cards, but seven other superb teams stand in their way, including tournament favourites and reigning champions The Netherlands, the world number 1 team. Maartje Paumen’s Dutch outfit will be aiming to lay some demons to rest at the hockey stadium in Rosario, a venue where they suffered a heartbreaking World Cup Final defeat against Las Leonas in 2010.
Here is a closer look at all of the teams that will compete in the tournament.
The Netherlands (World Ranking: 1) have set the standard over the last 12 months, showing the kind of form which fully justified their position as the world’s top ranked team. The side stormed to the EuroHockey Nations Championship with an overwhelming 3-0 victory over host nation Germany in the tournament final. They also produced a number of superb performances in the 2011 Champions Trophy saw them lift the title for the first time since 2007. Interestingly, that particular success arrived on Argentinean soil in Quilmes, a trick that they will be hoping to repeat in Rosario. Maartje Paumen is the world’s most feared exponent of the penalty corner drag flick and has been in sparkling form over the last twelve months. The decision of Netherlands coach Max Caldas to move his captain from defence to midfield was an inspired one, with Paumen rightfully earning the player of the tournament award at the 2011 Champions Trophy. To see The Netherlands team in full, please click here.
With the London 2012 Olympics rapidly approaching, there can be no doubt that this is going to be a massive year for a Great Britain (World Ranking: 4). Following their failure to qualify for the Athens 2004 Games, the team made huge strides forward under the guidance of Danny Kerry and is now a regularly amongst the medals at the major tournaments. The side performed brilliantly in the recent 4-Nations tournament in Cordoba, defeating Korea, New Zealand and Argentina before eventually losing to Korea in the tournament final. Recently named as the UK Hockey Writers’ Club women’s Player of 2011, striker Alex Danson is one of many players to watch in the Great Britain line-up. The 26-year-old is currently in the best form of her life and will surely be amongst the goals in Rosario. She possesses the kind of pace that most defenders have nightmares about. To see the Great Britain team in full, please click here.
China (World Ranking: 5th) finished 7th in the last edition of the Champions Trophy thanks to a 5-3 victory over Germany in their final match of the event. It was their only win in a disappointing CT campaign, although the Olympic silver medalists also achieved creditable draws against Korea, England and Australia in Amstelveen. This time around the champions of Asia will be looking for much greater success, and have a squad that is more than capable of doing achieving it. 33-year-old striker Fu Baorong is a constant threat in front of goal, but the star of the show is unpredictable attacker Zhao Yudiao, the 2010 FIH Young Player of the Year. To see the China team in full, please click here.
Japan (World Ranking: 9) achieved qualification for the 2012 Champions Trophy thanks to a glorious triumph at the 2011 FIH Champions Challenge 1, which took place in Dublin, Ireland. Trailing 2-1 at half time in the tournament final against USA, the Japanese team produced a stunning second half fight-back to claim the title and a place in this year’s competition. The Asian side has competed at two previous editions of the Champions Trophy, with its best result being a fifth-place finish in Quilmes in 2007, the last time the tournament was held in Argentina. Japan is the only team competing in Rosario that has not already qualified for the London 2012 Olympics, so a competition against the world’s best will serve as fantastic preparation ahead of their Olympic Qualifier in Kakamigahara later this year. Kaori Fujio (formerly Chiba) is the talisman of the team, and her goal-scoring prowess ensures that Japan are more than capable of doing well in this tournament. To see the Japan team in full, please click here.
Argentina (World Ranking: 2) seem to be rediscovering some form following a difficult 2011. The side coached by Carlos Retegui suffered an agonizing penalty shootout defeat against The Netherlands in the Final of the 2011 Rabo Champions Trophy which was followed by a crushing 4-2 loss against USA in the Pan American Games Final. It was the first time in seven attempts that Argentina had failed to win the Gold medal in the competition. However, a fine 7-3 victory over New Zealand in the build-up to this event suggests that The Lionesses still have plenty of gas left in the tank, and the encouragement of the vociferous home crowd will surely aid their chances of winning a fourth Champions Trophy in five years. Although she is now 34, Luciana Aymar is still the superstar of the Argentina team, and on her day she can be virtually unplayable. To see the Argentina team in full, please click here.
Germany (World Ranking: 3) finished eighth in the 2011 edition of the Champions Trophy, which was their worst performance in the history of the competition. However, only a fool would write them off in Olympic year, and Michael Behrmann’s troops showed strong signs of recovery at the EuroHockey Nations Championships in Mönchengladbach where they claimed the Silver medal. The side is lead by experienced campaigners such as midfield star Fanny Rinne and Natascha Keller, who at 34 is still widely recognized as one of the most dangerous strikers in the game. Keller recently hit the headlines when she became the first woman to make 400 senior international appearances (combined indoor and outdoor), and looks certain to add many more caps to her tally over the coming year. To see the Germany team in full, please click here.
Arguably the most improved team in world hockey over the past 18 months, New Zealand have earned a fearsome reputation thanks to the wonderful brand of attacking hockey encouraged by their coach, former Australian international Mark Hager. The Black Sticks had a stunning 2011, winning the Oceania Cup ahead of eternal rivals Australia before claiming the Bronze medal at last year’s Champions Trophy in Amstelveen. This exciting, youthful team is rapidly becoming a genuine force in the international arena and a strong performance in Rosario could be the catalyst for even greater achievements at the London 2012 Olympics. Attacking midfielder Anita Punt is one of many dangerous players in the New Zealand line-up. Her terrific turn of pace is sure to be on show throughout the competition. To see the New Zealand team in full, please click here.
Korea (World Ranking: 8) finished fourth at the 2011 Champions Trophy in Amstelveen, their best finish in the tournament since the Berlin Champions Trophy in 1997. The last time Korea competed at the Champions Trophy on Argentine soil they finished in second place, losing a dramatic final against Australia on penalty strokes in Mar del Plata in 1995. Their form entering this competition also suggests that they are capable of great things, having won the 4-Nations competition in Cordoba ahead of three higher ranked teams – Argentina, New Zealand and Great Britain. Lee Seon-Ok is an experienced presence at the core of the Korean team. Although selected for the 2011 Champions Trophy, the dominant midfielder did not get any pitch time due to a troublesome injury. She will be hoping for better luck this time around. To see the Korea team in full, please click here.
The Argentina FIH Champions Trophy 2012 gets underway on Saturday 28 January and will feature the first round of matches in Pool A and Pool B. The action begins in Pool A at 12:30 (UTC / GMT -3) The Netherlands and China go head to head before Great Britain do battle with Japan at 3pm. At 5.30pm, Germany take on Pool B rivals Korea before Argentina face a tough opener against New Zealand at 8pm.
You can keep up to speed on all the developments from the tournament on the FIH website, which will be regularly updated with the latest news, league tables, images and match highlights. The FIH will also be posting updates from the tournament to twitter via @FIH_Hockey, using the hashtag #championstrophy. As well as being televised by globally, the competition will be live streamed on LIVEFIH.TV. More information about this subscription service can be found on by clicking here.
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