After Mark Hagar announced his squad for the Hockey World Cup in The Hague, the 18 players spent several weeks in Auckland training for the big event. Given the players are from all over the country, this was an awesome opportunity for the girls to spend some time together on and off the field. Working hard in the gym and on the turf to prepare for the biggest event in world hockey, the girls let off some steam, and a few screams, at South Auckland’s Spookers and The Crowd Goes Wild did a great cover of the night.
The last tournament the Black Stick girls played at was on home soil at the Six Nations in Hawkes Bay. They finished up fourth behind Argentina, Australia and China and would have been hoping for a better result considering they are above China on the world rankings and, could put money on themselves to beat the Hockeyroos on a good day. Falling 3-2 to the Chinese in the bronze medal playoff was a disappointing end to the tournament as the girls failed to soak up the pressure, convert penalty corner opportunities and hold on to the ball. These will be clear areas of improvement when the girls meet Belgium in their first round of pool play in The Hague on Saturday 31st May.
Following Belgium, the women meet Korea, the Netherlands, Japan and then Australia. Belgium should be easy beats of the pool sitting at 12th on the FIH World Rankings but as with all women’s hockey, you can never be sure of a result until the final whistle. Korea and Japan should also be games that the New Zealand women win however; the score line is likely to be a lot closer. The exciting match ups will be against host nation The Netherlands and arch rivals Australia. Both teams sit above the Black Sticks on the world rankings and will be two games the Kiwis want to win. And they most definitely can beat both sides – they’ll just have to play well, really well.
The tournament structure requires the women to finish in the top two in their pool to qualify for the semi-finals. This means they could potentially lose one game in pool play but this and any more losses would seriously diminish their chances of medaling. England, Argentina, Germany, China, United States and South Africa make up the other pool of which all six teams are able to go through if they perform on the day. Probable picks for the semi-finals are The Netherlands and Argentina with possible picks including New Zealand, Australia and England with Germany and China also capable of creating upsets.
The Black Sticks women are looking forward to the tournament getting under way after departing over a week ago. For many international hockey players, the World Cup is the pinnacle of their career and in our World Cup squad; there are plenty of young players looking to make a statement in front of a crowd of up to 15,000 in a city many call the home of hockey.