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Archive for July 22, 2021

July 22, 2021 — Olympic preview: women’s field hockey

AL’S FEARLESS PODIUM

Netherlands
Germany
Argentina

The Netherlands, coming off a cycle in which they have dominated FIH Pro League play and won the 2018 World Cup, is, I think, a team which is confident and with plenty of swagger. They are a heavy favorite for gold, and they know it. Even without some all-time scorers in the lineup, the Oranje are a loaded squad. Fullback Caia van Maasakker is a deadly sniper on penalty corners, and forward Lidewij Welten is in her fourth Olympics.

But Holland’s last game in pool play, on August 1, is against Germany. I think Die Danas are a team which could send a real message to the Dutch in this situation. Germany will be led by former Maryland star Nike Lorenz, who captained the side in the most recent Eurohockey Nations League championship. Franzisca Hauke, whose brother Tobias won Olympic gold in Beijing and London, is a player to watch.

A star-crossed team, at least when it comes to the Olympics, is Argentina. The Albicelestes, despite winning World Cups, the FIH World League, and multiple Champions Trophies down the years, have never won an Olympic gold medal. The Leonas are going to be looking to all-time leading scorer Noel Barrionuevo, veteran goalkeeper Belen Succi, and forwards Delfina Marino, Victoria Granato, and Maria Jose Granato in order to gain success. As is the case in many years, Argentina usually looks to a single talismanic attacker in order to haul the load, but can the Leonas run a three-pronged attack?

The wild card in this tournament is Australia. The Hockeyroos have been a team in both transition and turmoil the last five years. Australia failed to medal at Rio 2016 and at the FIH Women’s World Cup of 2018, and a number of players such as Georgie Morgan and Rachael Lynch were left off the roster, even as a number of administrative personnel and coaches have been replaced in a widening bullying scandal. Lynch won her appeal to be reinstated to the national team, and she will lead a very young defense. Attacker Emily Chalker will have to have the tournament of her life in order to bring Oz to the medal stand.

I also think host Japan could represent a threat to the podium. The Cherry Blossoms are a quick and skilled side which also has won the most recent Asian Cup. Interestingly, their recent run of form started under head coach Anthony Farry, who jumped ship before the Olympics to coach the United States. The Sakura, however, could not manage a single corner in a recent friendly against Holland, which means that they need to make a quick jump up in class to compete here.