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Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Monday, 20 September 2010 16:01 UK

Ones to watch in Delhi: England women's hockey team

Hockey stars revel in success on BBC breakfast sofa

Winners of World Cup and Champions Trophy bronze medals this year, England's women head to the Commonwealth Games hockey tournament in buoyant spirits.

They were also third at the last Games, in Melbourne, and the aim in Delhi will be to go at least one better by reaching the final.

However, improving on that in India will not be easy, as several of hockey's world powers are Commonwealth nations, most notably Australia, South Africa and the hosts.

But England have avoided all three in the group stage and will feel the gold-medal game is within reach.

FACTS & STATS

Training: Almost all of the team have trained at Bisham Abbey, in Buckinghamshire, for the past year as part of a new-look Great Britain squad

Past honours: Champions Trophy bronze and World Cup bronze in 2010, Olympic bronze (as Great Britain) in 1992, Commonwealth silver in 1998 and 2002, bronze in 2006

PATH TO THE PODIUM

Highlights - England win bronze at Hockey World Cup

2010 form: England's women's hockey team have had one of the finest years in their history. Their bronze medal in July's Champions Trophy in Nottingham, was an achievement in its own right but was soon eclipsed by World Cup bronze in Argentina - both medals coming at the expense of Germany.

Rivals: On the world stage it is difficult to see past the Netherlands or recent World Cup hosts Argentina but, in their absence, Australia are the major power in Delhi. The Australians have dominated the women's Commonwealth event, winning gold in 1998 and 2006, either side of a bronze (behind silver medallists England) in 2002. New Zealand are England's strongest rivals in the group stage, where they will also meet Wales, Malaysia and Canada.

606: DEBATE

How they could win: Beth Storry was voted goalkeeper of the tournament at the World Cup, while Crista Cullen has proved increasingly impressive from penalty corners, the set pieces by which a large number of hockey's goals are scored. However, the driving force behind England has been their camaraderie and teamwork, the direct result of a concerted English (and British) initiative to develop a cohesive unit on the pitch.

What they say: "We believe. We've not had that much belief before - it takes results to give you that. It's been building and now we're going into the Commonwealth Games with that belief." - Kate Walsh, team captain

"I'm hugely excited. We've only had eight months of centralised training, and we've got two years of that left. We know how far we've come in eight months, and I know how much further we'll go." - Danny Kerry, head coach

Sporting high: World Cup bronze is unprecedented for the English women, so it's fair to say they are currently at an all-time high. "I don't think we even played our best hockey," England's Helen Richardson told BBC Breakfast, bronze medal at her side. Captain Walsh, alongside her, added: "We've both got bronze and silver Commonwealth medals, so gold would be nice to finish off the set."

Sporting low: For all their recent success, the fortunes of England at the Olympics, as part of the British women's team, have made for reasonably depressing reading in the last decade or so. They were eighth in 2000, sixth in 2008, and reached a nadir when the team failed to even qualify for the Athens 2004 competition.

In action: England open their campaign against near neighbours Wales on the morning of Tuesday, 5 October. Should they make it to the medal matches, bronze and gold will be decided on Wednesday, 13 October.

THREE TO WATCH
England players in Argentina
England players celebrate winning World Cup bronze

Beth Storry: Experienced goalkeeper who plays her club hockey for Reading. Storry, 32, barely put a foot wrong at the World Cup and was duly rewarded with the honour of being named goalkeeper of the tournament, drawing routine praise from coaches and colleagues throughout.

Crista Cullen: Recently hailed as a "defensive powerhouse", Cullen is actually more noticeable for her pivotal role in penalty corners, from which she has the capability to score game-changing goals. Cullen, who grew up in Kenya, took time out in 2009 to travel up the east coast of Africa.

Charlotte Craddock: In a squad where four players are able to boast more than 500 caps between them, 19-year-old Craddock's 15 England appearances mark her out as new blood. Craddock missed a penalty in the shoot-out which deprived England of a place in the World Cup final, but expect her to bounce back in Delhi.



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see also
England's women earn bronze medal
12 Sep 10 |  Hockey
England defeat Germany for bronze
18 Jul 10 |  Hockey


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