Women's hockey is evolving and the Champions Trophy was proof of it 1

Women’s hockey is evolving and the Champions Trophy was proof of it

While we are in the middle of the Men’s Hockey World Cup, we make a parenthesis to analize briefly the Women’s Champions Trophy. FIH announced how the 2018 Champions Trophy was going to be the 23rd edition of the competition and the last of its kind. The Competition was originally going to be played in Argentina but was moved to China due to contractual obligations the South-American country couldn’t fulfil.

Argentina’s Las Leonas went to the competition as defending champions and as the biggest winner in the competition but fell short to defend the title obtained in 2016 in London.

 

The Netherlands, the last champion

After a stellar performance from the Netherlands at the World Cup where they basically trashed everyone, we expected to see the same killer machine again.

The Netherlands obtained their 7th title, remaining undefeated, but the results and their game were not as impressive as it was in the World Cup.

True, there were many key players missing the likes of captain Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, Marloes Keetels, Kelly Jonker, Kitty van Male, Frédérique Matla, Nonetheless the orange machine had enough to beat all their rivals, with an impressive 5-1 win over, No.3 in the world, Australia in the final.

It is important to remember that Australia was tied with six titles in The Champions Trophy along with the Netherlands. So, with the last result the Netherlands equals Argentina with seven and Australia staying at six.

 

How did las Leonas do?

Argentina had a frustrating tournament overall. The lack of effectiveness inside the D is showing and is bringing them many headaches.

Argentina showed they could construct team plays but the finish touch just wasn’t there. The defence also needs to adjust. It showed against the Netherlands and China.

Argentina dominated the game against the Europeans but three short corners later they were 0-3 down. Argentina’s lack of a good short corner is a big problem they have to find a solution to. And not just the execution but the defence of it.  Against the Netherlands, Van Maasakker and Jansen, both sent the ball to the exact same place (to the first post) and las Leonas defence were unable to stop the three of them.

Against China, they didn’t suffer from their efficiency in the short corners. But while Argentina dominated the game, China scored two goals after a couple of penetrations in the D.

Lucina Von Der Heyde was the best players for the team, setting the times in attack and helping with the defence. Low key recognition to the young Agostina Alonso, the partner in the wing with Von Der Heyde in the midfield, recovering balls and helping to distribute the game.

Women's hockey is evolving and the Champions Trophy was proof of it 2
Las Leonas collected their 7th title back in the Champions Trophy 2016, in London (photo: Getty Images)

 

Hockey is evolving 

What can we say about the other teams? Well, we could see mixed results… not the usual ones. And I guess that was the beauty of the Champions Trophy: anyone can beat anyone.

China, the host and No. 10 in the ranking, beat Argentina 2-0, while Japan draw with Great Britain 2-2. Australia also draw with China and obtained another draw with Japan, No. 14 in the ranking.

As a result, we could see how teams are in transition right now. All them, except for the Netherlands, showed pretty much the same level of hockey and we couldn’t see the difference the ranking points out.

We have to remember, though, that we’re at the beggining of an Olympic cycle and it’s a little bit normal to see the teams without their usual precision and a game that isn’t as shiny as usually is. What is easily noticeable, though, is the fact that short corners will have to become a weapon as sharp as it is with the men’s hockey.

 

The importance of the short corner

The Netherlands showed clearly how, in a bad day, short corners can get you 3 points. Is not like that’s something we didn’t know but is something that at both, club and country, must have priority in training sessions and at camp next year when teams gather together again. The fact that we don’t see much effectiveness at such an important play in women’s hockey shows a serious lack of preparation from its roots. And maybe is because field plays were given more attention to in women’s hockey in the past, but now is time to stepped up with the men when we talk about short corners.

That will require sacrifice for sure. The shooter for such a play requires a different type of training, that leaves you very sore and it’s kind of lonely. But the rewards can be beyond messure.

The nation in women’s hockey, after the Netherlands, that dominates the short corner at the next tounament will have a place in the fight for medals, that’s for sure.

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Caia Van Maasakker, the best short corner shooter nowadays (photo: Willem Vernes)

 

The Champions Trophy will be a beautiful part of hockey’s history. And when the next generations ask for it we will be able to tell them that there were 3 teams that dominated a beautiful tournament not even players want it to end. We will be able to say them too how amazing was to see them fight each other till the last drop of sweat to win the precious trophy.

We say good bye to the Champions Trophy (for now? we’re secretly hoping it will be back) but we welcome the future, the FIH Pro League has to offer.