England still have a great chance to prolong their involvement in the 2018 Women’s Hockey when they take on Ireland in their last Pool B match this evening.
Unless the hosts lose and the India v USA game finishes in a score draw, England will play in one of the cross-over matches on Tuesday evening.
However, the team ranked No.2 in the world should not and will not be approaching their clash with Ireland with that in mind. They will be trying to win the game and, unless their opponents perform poorly, one of three things will need to happen for England to win.
The first option is the most likely: England’s senior players produce their best hockey when it matters to propel their side to victory. The second option is arguably the least likely, as it involves England’s young players becoming the best performers on the night. And the third option is the most desirable: the whole team play well.
Either the second or third options would be highly encouraging for the future of England Women’s hockey, particularly with the next Olympics looming in two years’ time.
Both occurrences would represent a departure from what has happened in the host’s first two games at this year’s World Cup as, on both occasions, it is England’s senior players who have performed best during frustrating draws.
Senior players set the example
Captain Alex Danson has shown the way in both games with lively attacking play and she produced an excellent solo goal to give England the lead against the USA; Hollie Pearne-Webb and Laura Unsworth have demonstrated all their experience to ensure their team have remained solid in defence; and Lily Owsley and Susannah Townsend have given the team a threat down the flanks.
However, if England are going to have any chance of winning the tournament, their young players will have to perform better.
Some of the young defenders have done well. For example, Anna Toman and Kathryn Lane looked composed when they were repelling attacks from the USA.
So the pressure is now on the inexperienced attackers to rise to the occasion and improve England’s goal tally in front of 10,000 passionate home fans. Hannah Martin has shown promise in her international career so far but she is yet to produce at the World Cup, Suzy Petty needs to give the side more control in midfield and Jo Hunter must find a way to reproduce her club goal-scoring exploits in her country’s colours.
If England’s young players can inspire their team to victory over Ireland, it could be an important first step on the road to potential success in this World Cup and, looking further, at Tokyo 2020. This is their chance to show they have what it takes.