Winning the World Cup on home soil would be the “icing on the cake” for Alex Danson. However the England captain is just as concerned about the legacy the squad leaves as she is about getting her hands on that glittering trophy at the beginning of August.
Danson, a European and Olympic Champion in 2015 and 2016 respectively told BBC Sport:
“Winning this tournament will have a massive impact on our sport absolutely, but equally the way we go about trying to achieve that is just important. If it leads to something glorious that’d be the icing on the cake.”
Legacy has been a prominent part of the squad’s makeup throughout Danson’s time in the international setup. The mantra of “Be the difference. Make history. Inspire the future” was oft repeated during the side’s run to the gold medal in Rio and has become part of the furniture in everything the squad does on and off the field to this day.
With a partisan home crowd, including many potential future players watching on expectantly, you’d be forgiven for thinking Danson and her team were under pressure to perform. The No15, who is one goal short of Marjorie Pollard’s all-time scoring record for England and Great Britain sees it differently:
“The thought of playing at home is very special it’s a once in a lifetime, once in a career opportunity. Lee Valley is our fortress and the crowd is immense.”
“To think we’ll have the opportunity to walk out on home soil where people are supporting us, they aren’t looking for us to do poorly, they are adding to the strength we have as a group and the strength we have on the field. We are ready to go.”
England’s last World Cup campaign ended in disaster as they went in as one of the tournament favourites but finished up 11th out of 12 in 2014. There have been changes in personnel since then and of course gold medals for England in the European Championships and Great Britain in the Olympics so 2014’s horror show will likely not enter the thinking of Danson and her team mates.
When faced with the inevitable question of “can England win it” Danson is typically coy:
“All I can say is I believe we’ve had some of the best preparation in the build-up. We are the best prepared side in my opinion. We feel genuine excitement, genuine readiness. We are so prepared and ready to go. I want to leave that World Cup knowing we have done everything we can and finished in the best position we can. If we do that, I will be delighted.”
If the “best position they can” ends up being World Champions, Danson won’t be the only one who is delighted!
England squad: Giselle Ansley, Grace Balsdon, Sophie Bray, Alex Danson, Sarah Haycroft, Maddie Hinch, Kathryn Lane, Hannah Martin, Lily Owsley, Hollie Pearne-Webb, Suzy Petty, Jo Pinner, Ellie Rayer, Amy Tennant, Anna Toman, Susannah Townsend, Laura Unsworth, Ellie Watton.