England’s women can spring a surprise and win the Hockey World Cup, according to their head coach, Jason Lee. “There are six countries that think they might have a chance of winning it and we’re in that group for sure,” Lee said.
His side begin their campaign against the US today, after England’s men drew 1-1 with Spain yesterday in their first group match, disappointed to have squandered numerous scoring chances.
The 17-day tournament in The Hague, Holland, is the first time in 16 years that the men’s and women’s events have been held in the same city. England’s women are hoping to continue the progress which has seen them rise from fourth to third in the world rankings over the past year.
“We’ve beaten both Argentina and Holland in penalty shoot-outs in the last 12 months by keeping it tight and taking it to penalties,” said Lee. “We know we’ve got to be a team that are tough to beat.”
The World Cup features two groups of six nations playing each other, with the top two in each progressing to the semi-finals. The England women expect their toughest test will be against Argentina, but the matches against sixth-ranked Germany and seventh-ranked China are likely to be key in determining which teams go through.
England’s men’s head coach, Bobby Crutchley, who is embarking on his first World Cup campaign, has played down his team’s chances. “We’ve had a lot of changes since the London Olympics,” he said. “We are an inexperienced group. I’m not sure we can be overly confident at the sharp end of the tournament.
However, admitting he is a pessimist, he added: “But the players surprise me every day in training.”
England’s men, who are ranked fourth in the world, are in a tough pool which includes the favourites, Australia, and fifth-ranked Belgium.
World cup fixtures
Yesterday v Spain (1-1)
2 June v India
5 June v Malaysia
7 June v Australia
9 June v Belgium
1 June v United States
3 June v China
6 June v South Africa
8 June v Argentina
10 June v Germany
13 June Men’s/Women’s semis
15 June Men’s/Women’s finals