- Pool A - Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic
Following their defeat to England in the 2015 final, the Netherlands will be determined to go one better this time around. This year’s hosts managed to secure silver at the Olympic Games in Rio, but missed out on top honours to Team GB, however, that double disappointment will surely have galvanized their desire to win this year.
The Dutch are joined in Pool A by neighbours Belgium, a nation who have only made it past the preliminary stage once in their history, and a Spain side that finished fourth in 2015. The Czech Republic complete Pool A following their promotion from the EuroHockey Champions Challenge.
- Pool B - Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland
A bronze medal in Rio was seen as a success considering Germany stumbled their way through the group stages and into the semi-finals. The Dutch put paid to their hopes in the last four before a win over New Zealand allowed the team ranked seventh in the world to salvage some glory from the Games.
The Germans will be joined by EuroHockey Nations Championship title holders England, a team that could well top Pool B with maximum points should they find the same form that has seen them swat aside the competition over the last two years.
Scotland and Ireland complete the lineup in Pool B, with the former seemingly determined to get one over on the Auld Enemy, while Ireland will be buoyed following their ascension from the EuroHockey Champions Challenge two years ago.
Since the tournament first began in 1984, the final has featured either Germany, the Netherlands or both. Things don’t look set to change this year with the Dutch looking strong, especially in what appears to be a very weak group. Expect easy wins for the orange army over Belgium and Spain, before they unleash fury on the inexperienced Czechs.
The Dutch should be joined in the final four by Belgium or the 2015 semi-finalists Spain, a decision that could come down to the final round of games in Pool A. Should this be the case, expect a tight and cagey affair that could see the Belgians narrowly sneak through by the odd goal.
As for Pool B, Germany and England will take some beating with both teams seemingly nailed-on to reach the final four. England in particular look to be very strong, especially following David Ralph’s decision to name a squad full of experience that will be spearheaded by Alex Danson. The 32-year-old forward has netted 103 times in 281 appearances and could well lead her country to top spot ahead of rivals Germany.
As for the remainder of Pool B, Scotland failed to make an impression two years ago and could suffer a similar fate this time around, while Ireland will be lucky to pick up a point in their quest to avoid relegation back to the second tier of European hockey.
Sports.net’s top tip:
- England, Germany and the Netherlands to qualify