With the Women’s Hockey World Cup taking place next year in London, now is the time that coaches are bringing in talented new players so they are ready for the pressure of a World Cup competition.
The FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Brussels provides the perfect environment for players to come to grips with the demands of a competition where the stakes are high. At the same time, the squads also need the voices of experience, and there are players taking to the pitch in Brussels who have had years of performing at the top level of our sport.
Here is a quick look at some of the players – new and experienced – who will be making an impact in Brussels.
Australia’s Kathryn Slattery burst onto the scene as a debutant at the 2014 World Cup in the Hague and has been putting away goals for the Hockeyroos ever since. Now she is no longer the ‘new girl’, Slattery will be leading the line as Australia seek to improve upon the third place they achieved at the 2015 FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp.
As the home team, Belgium will be under pressure to perform and so they will be looking to their experienced players to lead the way. They don’t come anymore experienced than Jill Boon. The forward can expect to hit the 250 cap mark in Belgium and she would love to celebrate that milestone by helping her team qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
China’s captain Cui Qiuxia is a relative newcomer to the very experienced China team, but with more than 100 caps to her name, she definitely knows what it takes to win at this level. In Valencia in the 2015 edition of this competition, Cui Qiuxia played most of the competition with her hand bandaged up after she took a knock which would have put most people out of the game for a while. Her level of commitment in defence is inspirational.
One of the newest members of the Italian squad is Frederica Carta but the young player will not be fazed by the big occasion. She recently participated for her club side, Amiscora, in the EuroHockey Club’s Trophy and showed herself to be more than capable of taking on a defence and creating scoring opportunities. Expect a busy performance from the midfielder.
In the 2015 edition of this event, Korea finished runners-up to the Netherlands after a consistently good performance throughout the competition. Their captain Kim Jong Eun is instrumental in driving the Korea team forwards and her speed and innovation when the team attacks is one of the reasons the Asian side will always pose a threat.
The lowest ranked team in Brussels will be Malaysia (FIH Hero World Ranking: 22) but, as Italy found out in Hockey World League Round Two when they lost to the Tigresses in a shoot-out, you can never write this Asian side off. Goalkeeper Farah Yahya was the hero in Round Two and she could prove to be one of Malaysia’s key players as they seek to live the Hockey World League dream of progressing to a first World Cup qualification spot.
Netherlands come to Brussels as pre-tournament favourites and, despite some changes to the squad that won the 2014 Hockey World Cup and silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics, they remain a side that oozes quality. There is a bevy of new players in the squad but one to watch for the future is Maartje Krekelaar. For a player with fewer than 20 caps for her country, she is cool and creative on the ball and hardworking when chasing possession.
The Black Sticks of New Zealand have a very strong squad in Brussels. One of the hallmarks of their team is a shared ability to lead and take responsibility. No player personifies this more than the super-competitive Kirsten Pearce. The midfielder is now approaching senior status within the squad with more than 80 caps to her name and she can be relied upon to terrorise the opposition with a phenomenal work rate.
Ranked 17th in the world, Scotland will be one of the lesser-known teams at this tournament. What their opponents will have gathered from video footage is that the Scotland side are hard-working, uncompromising and structured. The three most experienced players share the captaincy – Becky Ward, Kareena Cuthbert and Rebecca Merchant – but another player who is likely to have a big impact is Amy Costello. The defender is part of the Great Britain centralised programme and will be looking to inspire Scotland to a 2018 World Cup appearance.
Spain has a wealth of talent at its disposal and, after a good performance at the 2016 Olympic Games, they have plenty of top level international experience. Rocio Ybarra continues to provide the steadiness needed in defence and is likely to reach 250 caps for her country at this event, but for a glimpse into the future, Carmen Cano is a player who is likely to create havoc among the opposition’s defence.
To follow all the action at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Brussels, click here. For information on the Hockey World League, click here.