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June 9, 2015 — World League Semifinal Preview: Pool A

The FIH Women’s World League Semifinals are two tournaments being held in Spain and Belgium. These two tournaments are not only qualifiers for the Women’s World League final later this year, but for the Olympics. The top three teams in each pool are guaranteed to go to Rio, plus as many fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-place teams (in order) that qualify depending on whether those top-three teams also are able to win their continental titles.

Each of the two tournaments has two pools of five teams each. The five-team pools means that the teams’ fixture lists are a little different from each other. Some teams won’t play on the first day of the tournament; others won’t be playing on the final day of the competition.

Here’s a look at Pool A:

ARGENTINA
World ranking: 3
How they got here: World ranking
Key players: Belen Succi, G; Noel Barrionuevo, M; Carla Rebecchi, F; Delfina Merino, M; Macarena Perez, D
Outlook: A lot has happened to Argentina in the last four years. Las Leonas come into this competition not holding the Pan American Games title and are running a little bit scared. A coaching change since last year’s World Cup bronze-medal finish has led to dissention in the ranks and players leaving the team. A couple came back, however, and the Albicelestes are going to have to go into this competition with the realization that a magician with the number 8 on her back is not going to walk out of the locker room to help them.

CANADA
World ranking: 20
How they got here: Qualified through World League Round 2
Key players: Abigail Raye, D; Thea Culley, F; Kate Gillis, F; Kaitlyn Williams, GK
Outlook: Canada’s women used to be more than a match for the U.S. team; two decades ago, there was a pretty good cross-border rivalry and the Leafs were expected to punish the Americans for defensive mistakes. NCAA coaching staffs would often bring in players from Canada to boost their lineups, and names like Amy MacFarlane (Princeton) would eventually grow into fine national-teamers. But if you look at the national team pool, not a lot have had the American experience. Gillis lasted just two seasons at Boston College before coming home to play with the University of British Columbia. The lack of robustness in CIS competition (where there are only 10 teams) can’t help in their development.

CHINA
World ranking: 7
How they got here: World ranking
Key players: Li Donxiao, G; Wang Mengyu D; De Jiaojiao D; Xu Jiaoxu M; Peng Yang, F
Outlook: So much has happened with Chinese hockey since the team made the Olympic final at home in 2008. The entire roster of the silver-medal team from just seven years ago has been swept away, and the Chinese hockey folks have even gone so far as to bring in former South Korea manager Cho Myung Jun to lead the effort.

GREAT BRITAIN
World ranking: 8 (England), 17 (Scotland), 34 (Wales)
How they got here: World ranking
Key players: Kate Richardson-Walsh, D; Helen Richardson-Walsh M; Sophie Bray, F; Georgie Twigg, M; Alex Danson, F
Outlook: Is this going to be a pattern? Team GB won bronze at London just three years ago, but Team England finished last in its pool at the 2014 FIH World Cup. It will be interesting to see what happens this time around. 

SPAIN
World ranking: 15
How they got here: Host
Key players: Maria Lopez, G; Rocio Ybarra, D; Gloria Comerma, F; Gigi Oliva, F/M
Outlook: The Spanish are capable of great things; Oliva is an athletic force who can score in several different ways. Home-field advantage will give the team a boost but it will be all they can do to qualify for the quarterfinals and a likely match against Germany or the United States

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