Ukraine has pulled out of the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup starting at Potchefstroom from April 1 thus reducing the competition to 15 teams. The FIH announced that there will be no last minute replacement for Ukraine and all its matches scheduled in the draw would be treated as cancelled.
The FIH said that the Ukrainian Hockey Association has informed it today that its team will not be able to participate in the upcoming FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup eventually, despite its tireless efforts to try to make it possible.
“This is of course a very sad situation, first and foremost for all members of the team, especially the players, and I would like, on behalf of FIH, to reassert our full solidarity with the Ukrainian hockey community at this terrible time.
“I would also like to extend our sincerest thanks to the Hockey Associations of Poland and the Netherlands, as well as the Dutch club of HV Victoria, for their tremendous efforts in providing support to the team in the last couple of weeks. We wish a lot of strength to everyone within the Ukrainian hockey community. Our thoughts are with them. And we hope that peace will be restored as soon as possible», FIH CEO Thierry Weil stated.
The team of Ukraine will not be replaced. Therefore, the event will be played with 15 teams, with Pool B comprising of South Africa, England and Ireland. The matches of Ukraine will be cancelled, the FIH statement said.
It may be pertinent mention that earlier, the FIH had revoked its invitation to the Russian team.
In spite of postponement and last minute withdrawals, the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup is all set to begin on April 1.
As runners-up at the Junior Euro Hockey Championships (beaten by Spain in shoot-out), and the team with the highest number of wins at this tournament (3), Netherlands will be the team to beat in this pool. Head Coach Dave Smolenaars will have a host of players at his disposal who have been part of a national structure that continuously produces quality hockey players. The Netherlands opens its account with a match against USA on the first day of competition.
The most intriguing meet-up in this pool will be the Pan Am clash between USA and Canada. The Canadians will be full of confidence after they won the Junior Pan Am Championship for the first time in their history. USA have been very much in a rebuilding stage so it will be interesting to see how the players respond to this challenge.
The USA Head Coach Tracey Paul will be looking for the experience of players such as Hope Rose and Charlotte de Vries to lead her team through to the knock-out stages. USA’s highest ever finish in its eight previous appearances was seventh in 2013. Canada’s last appearance was in 2013, when it finished 14th. Like USA, the Canadian team’s previous best was a seventh place in 1989.
For Canada, nine of the team that won the Junior Pan Am Cup will be making the trip to South Africa. Head Coach Jenn Beagan is delighted at the prospect of both the junior and senior Canada teams competing in World Cups this year, saying: ‘This is an exciting time and I have no doubt the athletes will rise to the occasion.’
Zimbabwe are a country that has been really focused on developing its national teams in the past few years, and it could spring a surprise on their more experienced opponents. Its previous three appearances have seen the African team finish in last place, but, with the event taking place on African soil for the first time,it will be aiming much higher this time around.
Mutsa Bera, the Zimbabwe captain said: ‘We are going to learn a lot from playing at such a big event. It is about taking up the challenge, just going in there and putting up a fight.
‘It is such a big thing to be able to go out there and make a mark for Zimbabwe hockey and show how ready we are to do this.’
Zimbabwe face Canada in its opening Pool A match on April 1.