GREAT BRITAIN: Like the men's side, the three countries of England, Scotland, and Wales will join forces in trying to secure the gold medal on home soil. The British women have only participated in four of the five tournaments, and they have just one medal to show for their efforts. Since 2000, they have not finished higher than sixth-place, so the British women may find themselves in tough against some of the more experienced teams. They need a boost from the home crowd if they want to find their way onto the podium.
Colors: red, white, and blue.
Medals: 1 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: n/a (England - 4th, Scotland - 18th, Wales - 27th).
CHINA: The 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China saw the home nation qualify for the Olympics in November 2010. The Chinese women only began playing field hockey on the Olympic stage in 2008 in Beijing, but it was a successful debut as they came away with the silver medal. The Chinese play a very structured and sound game defensively, and capitalize on chances when they are presented. While they may not be a medal favorite, the Chinese could prove dangerous in London.
Colors: red, white.
Medals: 1 silver.
FIH World Ranking: 5th.
KOREA: Like the men, the Korean women's team hails from South Korea. The Korean women also qualified at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, and they were the first team to qualify that had participated in every Olympiad since 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. Like the Chinese team, the Koreans play very composed in the defensive zone, and capitalize on chances when presented. Since 2000, however, the Koreans have seen some poor Olympic showings as they have finished no higher than seventh-place. They'll be looking to improve on that standing in London.
Colors: red, blue, white.
Medals: 2 silvers.
FIH World Ranking: 8th.
NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands were the first European team to qualify through the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championship in Mönchengladbach, Germany in August 2011. Like the men's team, the Dutch women are one of the best squads on the planet. They score, they can defend, they move the ball well, and they look poised to add another medal to their impressive Olympic haul. Since the 1984 Olympiad in Los Angeles, the Netherlands has only missed the podium once. That kind of execution can't be overlooked in London.
Colors: orange, white, navy blue.
Medals: 2 gold (1984, 2008), 1 silver, 3 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 1st.
GERMANY: The German women are mainstays in the women's tournament, but they tend to rise to the occasion before taking steps back. They have won a medal three times, but have missed the podium four other times, finishing from fourth-place to seventh-place. While wildly inconsistent in their finishes, it's hard to determine which German team will show up in London. However, if they play as well as they did in qualifying through the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championship, the podium may not be out of their reach.
Colors: red, black.
Medals: 1 gold (2004), 2 silver.
FIH World Ranking: 3rd.
NEW ZEALAND: The New Zealand women were one of the earliest teams to qualify in 2011, but they couldn't actually claim their berth in the tournament without playing the games in the 2011 Oceania Cup in Hobart, Australia in October 2011. After Fiji dropped out due to financial difficulties, only two teams remained from the Oceania region, giving the "Black Sticks" one of the two spots. New Zealand won the Oceania Cup, and they look to build on that win going into the London Olympics. The Black Sticks have never finished higher than sixth-place in the Olympics, so they'll need to work hard to move past that ranking this time.
Colors: black, gray, white.
FIH World Ranking: 6th.
AUSTRALIA: The "Hockeyroos" have consistently been one of the better teams in women's field hockey, but they have been caught by a couple of countries. The Hockeyroos qualified through the 2011 Oceania Cup in Hobart, Australia in October 2011. It's feast or famine for the Hockeyroos at the Olympics - gold or nothing. That being said, I can't see the Australians moving on with the way their season has gone. Unless the Hockeyroos show up and play inspired, the famine will continue for the Australian women at the Olympics.
Colors: yellow, green, brown.
Medals: 3 gold (1988, 1996, 2000).
FIH World Ranking: 7th.
UNITED STATES: The US women qualified by winning the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico in October 2011. The American women might be in over their heads in London. This is the first time they have qualified for the Olympics, and is only the second time they will participate. They have won medals in lesser competitions, but they will be overwhelmed in London unless they play some incredible hockey. I just don't see that happening with the teams that have qualified for the London Olympic Games.
Colors: blue, red, white.
Medals: 1 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 10th.
SOUTH AFRICA: The South African women qualified by winning the first Olympic Qualification Tournament in New Delhi, India in February 2012. The South African women had actually qualified earlier by winning the 2011 African Olympic Qualifier in September 2011, but, like the men, they felt they needed to qualify against more challenging opponents. In New Delhi, they certainly proved they deserved a spot in the Olympics. In London, though, they may be overwhelmed as they have only participated in the last three Olympiads, and have finished no higher than ninth-place. There may be room for improvement, but a podium finish seems impossible.
Colors: green, yellow.
FIH World Ranking: 12th.
BELGIUM: The Belgian women pulled off a stunning upset in the second Olympic Qualification Tournament in Kontich, Belgium in March 2012. Belgium defeated 11th-ranked Spain by a 1-0 score on a goal in the second minute of the match, and then held on to finish atop the standings to qualify for their first Olympic competition by outscoring Ireland in the goal differential by 21-13 margin. Belgium is certainly an underdog going into these Olympic Games, but they proved that they can defeat some of the higher-ranked teams. Medals are doubtful, but an upset or two will help to promote the sport within Belgium's borders.
Colors: red, black, white, yellow?
FIH World Ranking: 16th.
JAPAN: The third Olympic Qualification Tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan in May 2012 was won by Japan. The Japanese women are in tough in London, having only qualified for the Olympic competition twice before. They finished eighth-place and tenth-place in their previous two tournaments, so there is hope the team will finish in a higher standing this time. However, a medal is certainly out of reach for this emerging squad in London.
Colors: red, white, light blue, blue.
FIH World Ranking: 9th.
ARGENTINA: The Argentinian women made it in due to South Africa winning a spot in the qualification tournament in February. Argentina is a powerful team with many prominent stars from their club league in Argentina. The team is nicknamed "Las Leonas" - the Lionesses - and they tend to play as aggressively as the animal they are named is when hunting. Argentina will certainly be a medal favorite after being accepted into the tournament based on their world ranking.
Colors: light blue, white, black, blue.
Medals: 1 silver, 2 bronze.
FIH World Ranking: 2nd.
Pool A will feature the Netherlands, Great Britain, China, Korea, Japan, and Belgium. In looking at this pool, it seems almost elementary that the Netherlands and Great Britain will emerge as the top-two teams. China and Korea could cause some problems, but I expect the Dutch and British ladies to advance to the medal round.
Pool B sees Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and South Africa do battle. There are a number of good teams in this pool, but it seems realistic that Argentina and Germany would advance from these teams. New Zealand and Australia will most likely be the challengers to a spot, but I can't see them knocking off one of Argentina or Germany.
There are your twelve teams that will play in London as part of the women's field hockey event. There are some excellent teams in this event, and I really hope Canadian broadcasters and/or American broadcasters show this event. While it may not be appealing to most at first, the game is actually quite exciting! Here's hoping HBIC can catch at least a half-dozen games!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!