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Everything you need to know about the Women’s Hockey World League Finals

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The Women’s Hockey World League Finals push off in Auckland, New Zealand on Friday, with the USA taking on South Korea and the hosts battling the world number one, Netherlands.

England will play Germany at 23:00 (GMT) on Friday, the first game in a tough group which also includes Argentina and China.

Bronze medal winners at this years EuroHockey Nations Championship, England Women have never won the World Hockey League Final although they do boast a third-place finish in 2013.

How does it work?

The World Hockey League serves as a qualification process for the Hockey World Cup and Olympic Games. Over a two-year cycle, there are four rounds with the top teams from round one advancing to the World League Quarterfinals, the Semifinals and then to this month's final in Auckland.

England Women secured qualification for the 2018 World Cup, which will be played in the UK, by finishing in third place at the semi-final stage last July.

For the World League Finals, eight teams are split into two groups with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stages. The bronze medal and final matches will take place at 05:00 and 07:15 on November 26th.

The tournament serves as the last major international competition before the World Cup in July and England and Team GB coach Dan Kerry will hope that a strong showing will be the perfect platform for World Cup success.

Who’s going to win?

Quite possibly England. Ranked number two in the World the squad is virtually unchanged from the Team GB side that won Olympic Gold at Rio 2016.

2017 Euro Hockey Champions, Netherlands are also likely to be strong and won the first edition of the tournament back in 2013. World number three Argentina are defending champions although Las Leonas have a poor recent record in international tournaments finishing seventh at the Olympics and fourth at the World League Semi-Final stage.

Germany and the USA are also likely to be competitive, being ranked sixth and seventh in the world respectively.

How can I watch it?

Every game will be broadcast live on BT Sport although most fixtures are in the early hours of the morning so be sure to stock up on plenty of caffeine if you plan to watch. 

What’s the England team like?

The 18-woman squad will be led by newly appointed captain Alex Danson. The 32-year-old, who made her debut in 2001,  has scored 105 goals in 286 games for Great Britain and England during her 16-year career.

The team also includes goal-keeper Maddie Hinch who was the heroine in the 2016 Olympic Final and the 2015 Euro Hockey Final both of which were decided via a penalty shootout.

Three of the squad's players, Lily Owsley, Olivia Paige and Erica Sanders represent the University of Birmingham. 

Is there a men's tournament?

Yes, the men’s tournament runs from the 1st to the 10th of December and takes place in Bhubaneswar, India.

The tournament follows the same format as the women’s competition with England placed in a tricky group alongside Germany, hosts India and World and Commonwealth Games champions Australia.

The men are ranked seventh in the world and have failed to match the success of the women’s side. The team’s bronze medal at Glasgow 2014 remains the squad's best achievement to date since a silver medal at the 2010 Champions Trophy.

How can I get involved in Hockey?

After the women’s squad claimed their first ever Olympic hockey gold medal for Team GB at Rio 2016, England Hockey claims that over 10,000 new players have taken up the sport.

Hockey is a very easy sport to get involved in and the vast majority of Universities have male, female and mixed Hockey teams with BUCS fixtures on Wednesdays and local matches on Saturdays.

Teams tend to be highly sociable and inclusive which makes Hockey the ideal society to sign up for if you want to stay fit and make loads of great friends.

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons. 

Image above shows the England Women's side in action against Germany 

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