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June 15, 2016 — Preview: 2016 Champions’ Trophy

Saturday, the FIH Champions’ Trophy begins in London.

For the six teams, it is an opportunity to match skills ahead of the 2016 Olympics as well as for the six coaching staffs to evaluate players, albeit you’re unlikely to see experimental lineups this close to a major tournament.

Here is a capsule look at the six sides:

ARGENTINA
World Ranking: 2
Key Players: Carla Rebecchi (f), Belen Succi (gk), Delfina Merino (f), Noel Barrionuevo (m)
Argentina will win if: the team doesn’t expect Luciana Aymar to walk from the dressing room to the pitch
The skinny: Since the last World Cup, when the Albicelestes finished third, there’s been a coaching change as well as some reported dissent in the ranks when it comes to player selection. Argentina will feel a sense of pressure in Rio because it is the de facto host team, and any problems and issues need to be sorted out here

AUSTRALIA
World Ranking: 3
Key Players: Madonna Blyth (m/f), Georgia Nanscawen (f), Casey Sablowski (m), Rachael Lynch (gk)
Australia will win if: they are able to boss the midfield and generate attacks
The skinny: Anna Flanagan is not in the Hockeyroo side after word came out that she not only was charged with drunk driving, but she did not tell anyone in the national governing body about the incident. Australia, however, still has speed to burn in the midfield and attack zone, and will be a handful for any defense

TEAM GB
World Ranking: Not applicable; England is sixth, Scotland is 17th, Wales 31st
Key Players: Kate Richardson-Walsh (d), Helen Richardson-Walsh (m), Alex Danson (f), Georgie Twigg (f)
Team GB will win if: they seamlessly integrate their considerable experience with the younger players
The skinny: You might as well call this team an England side, because nobody from Scotland or Wales is in the squad for this tournament. Given the team’s experience as well as the fact that this team is the host, I would not be surprised in the least if they win this championship

HOLLAND
World Ranking: 1
Key Players: Maartje Paumen (m/d), Ellen Hoog (f), Naomi Van As (f/m)
Holland will win if: they are able to vary their strategy if something doesn’t work
The skinny: Maartje Paumen, the team’s dragflicking specialist, is the Stephen Curry of world field hockey. She can build a lead, can close out the game with a late goal, and can dictate the pace and rhythm like few others. If the Oranje are sounding alarm bells after losing a friendly last week against the United States, you haven’t heard about it

NEW ZEALAND
World Ranking: 4
Key Players: Sally Rutherford (gk), Anita McLaren (f/m), Stacey Michelsen (m), Gemma Flynn (f), Kayla Whitelock (f/m)
New Zealand will win if: they remain solid in the back
The skinny: The Black Sticks Women, for a long time, have matched their skills and wits with Australia. Now that they are equal and world No. 4, what can they do to jump to that next level? Rutherford is an excellent goalkeeper

UNITED STATES
World Ranking: 7
Key Players: Lauren Crandall (d), Rachel Dawson (d/m), Jill Witmer (f), Michelle Vittese (f/m), Jackie Briggs (gk)
USA will win if: they finish in the final third
The skinny: The American side is no longer the “surprise package” two years on from their fourth-place finish at the FIH World Cup. For a decade, the Applebees have been accruing the necessary traits needed for success: playing on the front foot, solid defense, and developing technically brilliant talent for the attack end, and that has yielded results. The reason the USA is in this tournament is that they won the 2014 Champions Challenge I tournament — the first major trophy the team had won in 94 years of international play

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