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Tokyo 2020 Preview: Women’s Pool B – Las Leonas take on titans of Oceania & Asia

July 21, 2021

Today’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 pool preview focusses on Women’s Pool B, where Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, China and Japan will all fight it out for the top four places in order to progress to the knock-out stages. More information about the teams can be found below.

Argentina
Las Leonas (The Lionesses) have long been considered as one of the world’s most fearsome attacking teams and are undisputedly a true powerhouse of the game. Since the 2014 retirement of eight times FIH Player of the Year Luciana Aymar – unquestionably one of the greatest players in the history of the sport – Argentina have claimed numerous titles, including the 2016 Champions Trophy, the 2017 Pan-American Cup and the 2019 Pan American Games, with the latter sealing their spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Player perspective – Delfina Merino: “It has been really hard for all the players, but also for everyone, because no-one saw Covid coming, and our lives changed for a whole year. Knowing that Tokyo will take place is really fantastic. We are training lots, which has been tough as there haven’t been any matches. It will be a special Olympics, it will be emotional I think.”
One to watch: Delfina Merino. ‘Delfi’ is Argentina’s creative mastermind. She has a reputation for scoring spectacular goals, regularly delivering when her team need it most. Named FIH Player of the Year for 2017.

For more information on Argentina, check out or special interview spotlight feature by clicking here.

Australia
About the team: Between 1994 and 2000, Australia were by far and away the best team on the planet, claiming two Olympic gold medals and two World Cups as the team coached by Ric Charlesworth – and inspired by the attacking brilliance of current Netherlands women’s head coach Alyson Annan and Katrina Powell, the current Hockeyroos head coach – ruled the hockey world. Now back high in the FIH World Rankings, Australia are once again a genuine powerhouse of the global game. The team secured their place at Tokyo 2020 via the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, defeating Russia 4-2 and 5-0 in Perth. There has been a late athlete replacement, with Georgia Wilson coming in for Penny Squibb. To see the updated squad, click here
Player perspective – Jane Claxton: “I think that for anyone who enters a sport, at any age or when you go into the junior or senior ranks, [the Olympic Games] is the pinnacle of our sport. Not just attending an Olympic Games, but also doing extremely well at those Games. Coming from a sporting nation like Australia, the focus is medals. That is the expectation. I think the Olympic Games is the pinnacle for hockey, and that is the biggest accolade you can get in our sport.”
One to watch: 
Rachael Lynch (GK). A sensational shot-stopper who was named FIH Goalkeeper of the Year in 2019, Rachael Lynch is a huge asset to the Hockeyroos, both in regular play and, if it should come to it, shoot-outs.

For more information on Australia, check out or special interview spotlight feature by clicking here.

New Zealand
The Black Sticks have been outstanding performers over the last decade, regularly getting themselves in contention for podium finishes. Fourth place finishes at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games split by a fifth-place finish at the 2014 Hockey World Cup has proven something of a frustration, but their gold medal success at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games showed that they are more than capable of winning titles. The team once again found themselves sitting top of the podium in 2019, defeating host nation Australia at the Oceania Cup to guarantee their participation in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. 
Coach quote – Graham Shaw: “With the lack of opportunities we’ve had it was a difficult squad to select. It’s certainly been very unusual circumstances, but I think we’ve got a balanced squad that poses a massive threat on attack alongside a strong defensive unit. We have some exciting young talent in our ranks especially Olivia (Shannon), Katie (Doar) and Hope (Ralph) who have stood up in recent years and all have huge futures in the black dress.”
One to watch: Stacey Michelsen. Widely regarded as one of the world’s most skilful players, Stacey Michelsen – who was nominated for the 2019 FIH Player of the Year Award alongside team-mate and prolific striker Olivia Merry - has effortlessly transitioned from a defender into a midfielder in recent years and is very much the creative heartbeat of the Black Sticks team.

For more information on New Zealand, check out or special interview spotlight feature by clicking here.

Spain
There can be no doubt that under the guidance of head coach Adrian Lock, 1992 Olympic gold medallists Spain have undergone an impressive revival. The Englishman – a former U-21 international – has been getting the best out of an extremely talented group of players that managed to reach the quarter-finals of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games before suffering defeat at the hands of eventual gold medal winners Great Britain. However, it was their performance at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 that really highlighted their progress, with the Red Sticks storming to the bronze medal by defeating Australia in the 3-4 place play-off, giving Spain their highest ever finish at a women’s World Cup. The team secured their place at Tokyo 2020 through the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, defeating Korea 2-1 and 2-0 in Valencia.
Player perspective – Berta Bonastre: “In the Olympics, every game is a challenge and I think all the teams play differently, in a competition like that. As a team, what we expect is to play game by game, not thinking about the final objective. Every game is a war. You have to analyse and study every team, because each team is there [at the Olympics] because they are strong, intelligent and technical.”
One to watch: Georgina Oliva. Spain’s vastly experienced captain is capable of having an influence in both defence and midfield. She is the sister of men’s international Roc Oliva.

For more information on Spain, check out or special interview spotlight feature by clicking here.

China
China Head coach Yang Wang has every reason to believe that this rapidly improving team can outperform expectations in Japan. There is certainly plenty of quality players to call upon, including Cui Qiuxia, a hugely experienced and utterly fearless defender. The team also has a world class shot stopper in Li Dongxiao (nominee: FIH Goalkeeper of the Year 2015), while outfield player Zhong Jiaqi was nominated for the 2019 FIH Rising Star of the Year award. China secured qualification for Tokyo 2020 with a dramatic shoot-out victory over Belgium in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in 2019.
One to watch: Cui Qiuxia. Having represented her country at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as well as the Hockey World Cups in both 2014 and 2018, defender Cui is one of the most experienced players in the China team and has a reputation for putting her body on the line.

For more information on China, check out or special interview spotlight feature by clicking here.

Japan
Japan claimed a remarkable gold medal success at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, meaning that the Cherry Blossoms had effectively qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 twice over, adding to the ticket already awarded as the host nation. The Asian Games victory – where they defeated higher-ranked India in the competition final – will have given the Cherry Blossoms a real taste for success, something they will be determined to replicate on home soil in Tokyo. The team are coached by former Spanish international Xavi Arnau, who as a player won Olympic silver at the Atlanta 1996 Games.
Captain’s comment – Yukari Mano: “Our goal is to leave behind a positive legacy for all the people who have supported us. As for the Olympics being held in Japan, I hope to take this opportunity to spread an awareness of the beauty of Hockey that I have given 16 years of my life to.”
One to watch: Shihori Oikawa. A tenacious, brave defender with an eye for a pass and the ability to contribute to the score-sheet from penalty corner situations.

For more information on Japan, check out or special interview spotlight feature by clicking here.

Our final pool preview, which will go live on Thursday, will focus on Men’s Pool B as Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Canada and South Africa do battle for the four quarter-final places on offer.

The hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place from Saturday 24 July to Friday 6 August 2021. Both the men’s and women’s competitions feature 12 teams, split into two pools of six ahead of quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches. For more information about the hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, visit https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/hockey/olympic-schedule-and-results.htm

Make sure that you use #Tokyo2020, #Hockey, #StrongerTogether, #HockeyInvites @Tokyo2020 and @olympics on social media when showing your support for your nation. Be sure to follow FIH for all the latest updates as teams and fans get ready for the biggest show on earth – the Olympic Games.

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