Hockey: Daunting European draw for Scotland

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SCOTLAND’S women have been handed a tough draw for this summer’s EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

Gordon Shepherd’s side will compete in Pool B alongside England, Germany and Spain in the continent’s top tournament, which runs from 17-25 August.

The objective for Scotland is to retain their place amongst the European elite in 2015. Sheperd’s team need to finish in the top two of their section to have any prospect of competing for medals, otherwise they enter the dogfight with the bottom four nations to avoid relegation.

Germany, Scotland’s first 
opponents on 17 August, are No 5 in the world rankings and claimed the silver medal in this competition two years ago – however, they had a pretty poor Olympic Games, finishing in seventh place in London. Spain have dropped to 15th in the rankings and failed to qualify at all for London, while England are fourth in the world and have the bulk of the Great Britain squad that claimed Olympic bronze in the summer.

Following the release of the schedule by the European Hockey Federation (EHF) yesterday, Scotland coach Shepherd said: “It’s an extremely tough draw for us but we knew we’d probably end up facing the teams we’ve been drawn against in the pool stage.

“Germany have a new coach and incoming players, but we know that they will be strong regardless. The match against Spain is winnable and it’s always exciting to be drawn against England in a competitive 
tournament, particularly when it’s possible we’ll face them at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, too.

“There are no easy games at this level and so our primary target is to reach the top six and retain our place in the division.”

Meanwhile, No 1-ranked side the Netherlands, hosts Belgium, Ireland and Belarus are the teams that make up Pool A.

Marijke Fleuren, EHF President, said: “It is my pleasure to endorse the match schedule for the upcoming TriFinance EuroHockey Championships. It is always a challenging task to get the balance right between the fundamental importance of the welfare of the players, whilst trying to ensure that the tournament is enhanced by having the local games at attractive times.

“The winners, both women and men, become European Champions and win a direct ticket to the 2014 FIH World Cup in Den Haag, underlining the importance of the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships. I am really looking forward to the tournament and know the massive volume of work that will be undertaken by the organising committee over the coming months.

“I wish them well and assure them of the continued support of the EHF, our volunteers and staff.”