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June 1, 2014 — FIH World Cup Preview — Group B

During the second day of the FIH Women’s World Cup, we will see three Group B matches. Let’s examine these teams in alphabetical order:

ARGENTINA
Current world ranking: 2
How qualified:
Automatic qualifier from the Americas
Best finish: Gold medal (2002, 2010)
Key players: Luciana Aymar, Noel Barrionuevo, Carla Rebecchi, Belen Succi
Outlook: Aymar, nicknamed The Magician, is 36 years old and is looking to hit her physical peak one more time. She is still skilled enough to make the team around her dangerous, but the key to the Leonas’ chances is the dragflicking of Noel Barrionuevo. In the run-up to the last Olympics, the Argentine specialist had a knee injury and they rushed her back to fitness just in time for London 2012. She had just two goals in the Olympics and is hoping to do better in this competition.

CHINA
Current world ranking: 7
How qualified: Qualifier from World League placing
Best finish: Bronze medal (2002)
Key players: De Jiao-Jiao, Xu Xiauyu, Wang Mengyu
Outlook: Retirements from the silver medal-winning 2008 team have left China a young unit that is building for Rio 2014. Head coach Baodong Yu wouldn’t mind seeing improvements in this tournament, but it is a tough ask.

ENGLAND
Current world ranking: 3
How qualified: Automatic qualifier from Europe
Best finish: Bronze medal (2010)
Key players: Kate Richardson-Walsh, Alex Danson, Sophie Bray, Georgie Twigg, Sally Walton
Outlook: This England side has been stuck in third place not only in world rankings, but in the medals the last few years. England has won bronze in the 2013 World League, the 2012 Olympics, and the 2010 World Cup. Despite the retirement of Helen Richardson-Walsh due to back injury, this England side has gotten wins this year at the expense of Argentina and Holland. Don’t be surprised to see the Lions in the Final Four.

GERMANY
Current world ranking: 6
How qualified: Qualifier from World League placing
Best finish: Gold medal (1976, 1981)
Key players:  Marie Mavers, Katharina Otte, Tina Bachmann, Julia Muller, Maike Stockel
Outlook: Die Danas have seen better days. They finished seventh at the 2012 Olympics and at the 2013 World League final, plus they saw their talisman players, Natascha Keller and Fanny Rinne, retire. On the day, they can be dangerous, but what can they do in this pool?

SOUTH AFRICA
Current world ranking: 11
How qualified: Automatic qualifier from Africa
Best finish: Seventh place (1998)
Key players: Pietie Coetzee, Ilse Davids, Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Shelley Russell, Tarryn Bright
Outlook: Coetzee, the greatest female international goal-scorer of all time, was a late addition to the South Africa roster after teammate Lenise Marais picked up an injury. Coetzee had originally planned to sit out this competition and focus on the Commonwealth Games later this year. Bright is the speed on this team.

UNITED STATES
Current world ranking: 10
How qualified: Qualifier from World League placing
Best finish: Bronze medal (1994)
Key players: Katie O’Donnell, Rachel Dawson, Paige Selenski, Jackie Kintzer, Jill Witmer
Outlook: The Applebees come into this World Cup coming off winning its first major world-level trophy in 94 years, the Champions Challenge 1. This stamps the U.S. side as a dark horse coming in. It’s one thing to beat the likes of India and Ireland, but this pool is a step up. Four out of the five teams in this pool have have had the Americans’ number the last six years. The lone exception? Argentina, which lost to the U.S. at the 2011 Pan American Games and at the 2012 Olympics. Much will be laid on Kintzer and the U.S. defense, but perhaps the most technically sophisticated players ever produced are on the U.S. forward line.

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