Numerous Olympians on show as hockey's next generation aim to make their mark
This Thursday (24 November), the women’s Junior Hockey World Cup gets underway in the Chilean capital city of Santiago.
Sixteen of the best young women’s teams in the world will compete for the title at the vast multi-sport Club Deportivo Manquehue complex, which plays host to ten days of high speed action featuring the next generation of global hockey stars.
With four teams fighting it out for two available quarter-final places in each of the four pools, every single match has meaning and one slip-up could prove costly. Here is a look at the teams competing in each pool.
Pool A: Netherlands, USA, Korea, Zimbabwe
The Netherlands are bidding for a third consecutive Hockey Junior World Cup title, following on from their successes in 2013 and 2009. The side is much changed from that which became European champions in 2014, with only team captain Maartje Krekelaar, goalkeepers Josine Koning and Anne Veenendaal, Fabiene Roosen and Charlotte Adegeest remaining. Krekelaar, Koning, Pien Sanders, Frederique Matla and Joosje Burg were all members of the Den Bosch team that became European club champions earlier this year.
The USA produced a strong showing at the Junior Pan America Cup in Tacarigua, Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year, finishing second to Argentina to seal a ticket to Santiago. Striker Gabrielle Major and young midfielder Erin Matson both scored eight times at that event, contributing 16 goals to USA’s impressive tally of 40. The team is coached by former Dutch international Janneke Schopman, who as a player won Olympic gold at the Beijing 2008 Games and will take over as Head Coach of USA women in January 2017.
Korea booked their ticket to the Hockey Junior World Cup with a third place finish at the Junior Asia Cup 2015, which was played in Changzhou, China. The team earned a 3-2 victory over India in the bronze medal match, scoring twice in the final four minutes to secure their place in Santiago. One of those scorers was Cho Hyejin, who will captain the team in Chile.
A second place finish behind South Africa at the Junior African Cup in Windhoek, Namibia earlier this year earned Zimbabwe a return to the Hockey Junior World Cup for the first time since 2005. Their qualification was sealed thanks to a 2-1 win over Namibia in the semi-final, with Kelly Diplock and team captain Stephanie Campbell helping their team over-turn a 1-0 deficit to confirm their appearance in Santiago.
Pool B: Argentina, Germany, Japan, France
The Junior Pan American Champions and 2013 Junior World Cup silver medallists arrive in Santiago with a strong squad and will surely be amongst the front runners for the title. The team were dominant at the Junior Pan Am event earlier this year, defeating USA 6-0 in the competition final. Star striker Maria Granatto and midfielders Maria Ortiz and Lucina von der Heyde, the team captain, have all represented Las Leonas, Argentina’s senior women’s team, on numerous occasions.
Germany finished second behind Netherlands at the European Junior Nations Championships 2014 in Waterloo, Belgium to qualify for the Junior World Cup. A second place finish behind Spain at the recent 5 Nations Invitational event in Valencia, Spain suggests that they are in confident mood. Julia Meffert, Elisa Gräve, Hannah Gablac and Annelotte Ziehm all scored twice at that event, and will be looking to continue their good scoring form in Santiago.
They might be competing in their first ever Hockey Junior World Cup, but Japan’s second place at the Junior Asia Cup 2015 shows that they should not be underestimated. They were outstanding at the event in Changzhou, with host nation China needing a shoot-out to defeat the impressive Japanese in the competition final. Team captain Yu Asai and attacker Motomi Kawamura were both members of the ‘Cherry Blossoms’ team that competed in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
France qualified for their second Hockey Junior World Cup with a sixth place finish at the European Junior Nations Championships 2014. The current squad contains 12 players who represented a youthful France senior women at the Hockey World League Round 1 event on home soil in Douai, where the side finished in third place.
Pool C: Australia, England, South Africa, Chile
At the start of the year a trio of victories against New Zealand in the Oceania Junior Cup saw Australia’s ‘Jillaroos’ crowned as continental champions. Numerous members of the junior squad have represented the senior women’s team such as Renee Taylor, Madison Fitzpatrick and Mariah Williams, with the latter having over 50 caps and a member of the Hockeyroos squad that finished sixth at Rio 2016. Talented striker Grace Stewart is another Olympian from Rio, and has the potential to be one of the stars of the tournament.
A bronze medal at the European Junior Nations Championships 2014 sealed England’s ticket to the Hockey Junior World Cup, where they will be aiming to better the fourth place finishes of 2009 and 2013. The team is coached by Craig Keegan, Assistant Coach to the Great Britain women’s team that won Olympic gold at Rio 2016. University of Birmingham player Erica Sanders is the current top scorer in the elite Investec Women’s Hockey League, and will be looking to continue her excellent form in Chile.
South Africa have competed in every women’s Hockey Junior World Cup since 1997, and made it six in a row by becoming continental champions at the Junior African Cup 2016 in Windhoek, Namibia in March of this year. The team were in rampant form at that event, winning all five of their matches without conceding a goal and defeating Zimbabwe 10-0 in the competition final. A number of players are already involved with the senior side, including Tarryn Glasby, Marizen Marais and goalkeeper Marlise van Tonder.
Host nation Chile produced some solid performances at the Junior Pan America Cup 2016, winning four of their six matches including the bronze medal game against Canada. Sofia Machedo, Kim Jacob and Paula Valdivia, who each scored in the 3-0 victory over the Canadians, have all been selected for the World Cup, as has team captain Denise Krimerman, who recently helped Chile’s senior women claim a second place finish at the Hockey World League Round 1 event in Chiclayo, Peru.
Pool D: New Zealand, China, Spain, Belgium
Head Coach Sean Dancer, Assistant Coach to the Black Sticks women since 2014, has targeted a top eight finish and describes the group as “full of confidence to put in a strong performance.” Defender and senior international Maddison Dowe captains the team, being joined by three other members of the Black Sticks development squad: Stephanie Dickins, Tessa Jopp and Phoebe Steele.
The champions of Asia bring a strong side to Santiago that features two Olympians from Rio 2016. 19-year-old attacker Zhang Jinrong has played over 50 times for China’s senior women’s team, while U-21 captain Ou Zixia is a terrific defender who keeps her back-line well organised at all times. Both players were members of the China team that finished 12th at the Ergo Hockey Junior World Cup 2013 in Mönchengladbach, Germany.
Spain arrive at the Hockey Junior World Cup in Santiago in excellent form, having recently won the 5 Nations Invitational event in Valencia. The team is coached by Englishman Adrian Lock, who guided Spain’s women to an eighth place finish at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Two Olympians from Rio will be back in South America for the Junior World Cup, with midfielder Lucia Jimenez and striker Begona Garcia bringing extra quality to a very talented group.
A fifth place finish at the European Junior Nations Championships 2014 on home soil in Waterloo secured Belgium’s safe passage through to the Hockey Junior World Cup in Santiago. The team recently claimed a creditable third place at the 5 Nations Junior Invitational competition in Valencia, where Joanne Peeters and Stephanie Vanden Borre both scored twice. The team is coached by Xavier Reckinger, who as a player represented Belgium at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.
You can keep track of all of the latest news from the event on www.fih.ch and via FIH’s social media channels using the hashtags #HJWC2016 and #RockTheJuniors.