With England’s Women drawn in a tough pool alongside 2010 World Cup winners Argentina, old rivals and European Champions Germany, dark horses China, an in-form USA and the always tricky South Africans it is fair to say Jason Lee’s side have a tricky passage to the semi finals. Tricky, but not impossible by any means. The Top of the D takes a look at the players that will help push them through the pool stage and onwards in their quest for glory.
Hinch has emerged as a real star in international hockey since making the No1 slot her own after the London Olympics. With such an illustrious predecessor in Beth Storry it was always going to be hard to come in, but the Holcombe stopper immediately looked at home in the international spotlight. She has incredible agility and has worked extremely hard on her ability at penalty corners making her the scourge of forwards across the globe. The new style shootout seems to be to her liking, too as she was the difference in the European Championship semi-final against Holland and then again as England defeated Argentina in the World League to snatch a medal from the hosts. Hinch has collected three goalkeeper of the tournament awards in the last three competitions she has appeared in. With spells on the back foot inevitable in top level hockey, the former Leicester goalkeeper will have a crucial role to play in England’s quest for success.
The skipper is still going strong with over 300 international caps and almost 50 goals to her name. A wealth of experience and an almost Jedi-like ability to read the game the Reading defender is the cornerstone of the team’s defensive efforts. An absolute warrior who inspires every one of her team-mates, her “been there and done it” calmness under pressure will help the less experienced defenders such as Hollie Webb and Zoe Shipperley when the going gets really tough. When the tide turns in a sporting contest, a team looks to the leaders for guidance as to how to dig them out of a tough spot. The No11 is exactly the player you want around in those situations. She is also a more than useful threat at penalty corners providing a good direct drag flick and some accurate passes on the various options England might run. Richardson-Walsh is a key figure for Jason Lee’s side at both ends of the pitch.
One of England’s genuine world class talents, the No15 has over 60 goals in international hockey to her name for both England and Great Britain. Her reputation will precede her and it will come as no surprise to see teams make special provisions to try and stifle her, but that in itself could become an advantage. On the one hand, Danson is adept at creating a chance out of nothing, comfortable as she is on both forehand and backhand sides. On the other hand, any special attention she receives could free up space for the likes of Lily Owsley, Sophie Bray and Ellie Watton to exploit in the final third. England have plenty of quality in their ranks, but with Danson spearheading the attack, they look an infinitely better and more dangerous prospect. The rest of the teams in the tournament will be well aware of what Danson can do.
Jason Lee’s side open their campaign on June 1 against the USA. You can see the tournament schedule in full here.