In the Spotlight is a series that will profile each of the 24 participating teams at the London Olympic Games. It will provide a glimpse of what to expect as each squad begins its London quest. Between now and the Olympic opening ceremony a new team will be featured every 2-3 days. Today we take a closer look at the German women's national team.The Basics:
The American women are currently 10th in the FIH World Rankings. They have participated four times in the Olympic Games, twice as the host nation, and can boast a bronze medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Their best result in World Cups is also a bronze medal, in 1994 in Dublin. Regular participants in the World Cup since their first appearance in 1983, albeit with modest results, they missed the last one in Rosario after losing the qualifier at home to Korea. After missing the 2000 and 2004 Games, they finally returned to the Olympic stage for the 2008 Games in Beijing after winning the Qualifier in Kazan. For the London Games, they earned an automatic berth by stunning World Champions Argentina in the final of the Pan American Games.
The Road to London:
Up to the 2011 Pan American Games, the Argentinean women had never lost a match in continental competition, and most observers thought that this trend would continue. However, in the final of the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, the USA relied on a tight disciplined defense and boldly seized their attacking chances to register a deserved a historic 4-2 win. In a position to prepare for the Olympics without spending time and energy on a qualifier, USA has played more than 20 test matches since January. After hosting Australia, they travelled to Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, then finished with a four-match series at home against Argentina.
Players to Watch:
Veteran Lauren Crandall was instrumental in the Pan American Games victory, anchoring the defense and inspiring her teammates with a relentless work ethic that earned her a spot on the 2011 Pan American Elite Team. The American defense will be further reinforced by the return of Amy Swensen (Tran), elected best goal-keeper of the 2006 World Cup in Madrid and twice selected to the FIH All-Star Team in 2006 and 2007. She took a break from international duties after the non-qualification for the 2010 World Cup but returned to regain the starting goal-keeper position from talented youngster Jaclyn Kintzer. USA will also count on midfielder Katelyn Falgowski, a rising star on the world stage, named to the 2011 FIH All-Star Team, and on striker Keli Smith-Puzo, returning after her second maternity break.
Australian Lee Bodimeade started coaching the U.S. women in 2005 and immediately raised their level of play, taking them to the 2006 World Cup and 2008 Olympics. Although they missed the 2010 World Cup, he led them to the historic gold medal finish at the 2011 Pan American Games. A former International for Australia, Lee brings high-level playing experience to his coaching position, including an Olympic bronze medal (1992 in Barcelona) and a World Cup bronze medal (1994 in Sydney). He can count on the assistance of USFHA Technical Director Terry Walsh, another Australian international player, with Olympic and World Cup medals.
The American women will arrive in London with a seasoned team that includes seven players with Olympic experience. They will be anchored by a solid defensive unit with an average of 150 international caps. The Americans can also traditionally count on superior fitness that allows them to maintain a high work rate throughout an entire match.
On the flip side of their relentless collective effort, USA does not have an outstanding player able to make a difference on key plays, or a penalty-corner striker able to score against the top defenses they will face.
The Americans have progressed enormously in the last four years. Although they might not be able to repeat their superb Pan American Games performance, they could surprise a few teams in the tough B Pool in London (Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) and possibly finish higher than their eighth-place finish at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
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