Hockey World Cup: England face India in first game as London tournament starts

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Having a home World Cup is 'very special' - England captain Alex Danson
2018 Hockey Women's World Cup
Venue: Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London Dates: 21 July-5 August
Coverage: Live commentary of every England game online and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, reports on England and Ireland matches on the BBC Sport website

Hosts England face India on Saturday as the Hockey Women's World Cup starts in London (14:00 BST).

Sixteen teams split into four groups will compete in a total of 36 matches over two weeks at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in the Olympic Park.

More than 100,000 tickets have been sold for the event.

England, with a squad featuring eight Rio Olympic gold medallists, also face Ireland and USA - who meet at 18:00 BST - in the group stages.

New Zealand, Argentina and the Netherlands, who are reigning champions, are among the favourites.

England captain Alex Danson said her side are relishing playing on home turf.

"There is no place like home," said the 33-year-old. "I can't begin to imagine what it will feel like when we walk out in front of the full stadium with so many people willing us on and we want to do well for them, it's a fantastic opportunity."

What are England's chances?

Ranked second in the world, England have one of the strongest squads in the competition.

England boast the experience of eight Olympic champions who helped Great Britain stun overwhelming favourites the Netherlands in the 2016 Olympic final.

They will also want to improve significantly on their 11th-place finish at the last World Cup four years ago.

And to help them focus, there is a blanket ban across all social media for players and staff for the duration of the tournament - a plan which worked so well for Great Britain in Brazil.

England's squad includes attacker Lily Owsley, who returns after missing the bronze medal-winning Commonwealth Games campaign with a broken hand.

Forward Danson will be competing at her fifth World Cup and is one goal away from equalling Marjorie Pollard's combined England and GB goal scoring record, which stands at 115 goals.

Hollie Pearne-Webb will be hoping to repeat her heroics in Rio, which saw her nonchalantly score the winner in the final penalty shootout.

Hollie Pearne-Webb
Hollie Pearne-Webb scored the winning penalty as Great Britain won their first Olympic gold in 2016

Best of the rest

The Netherlands will be seeking revenge following their shock loss to Great Britain in Rio and as the current world number one side, they will be hard to beat.

They enter the competition on a the back of a dominant showing in the 2017 European Championships, where they beat Belgium 3-0 in the final.

The Netherlands begin the defence of their title against South Korea in Pool A at 17:00 on Sunday.

However, Argentina - ranked third in the world - are well fancied, with a squad full of youth and experience, including world young player of the year Maria Granatto.

They are dangerous in attack and organised in defence. Australia and New Zealand make up the world's top five and are certainly ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Italy will be playing in their first World Cup in 42 years, after not qualifying since 1976. They play their opening game against China on Sunday.

Can Ireland pull off a shock?

Ireland are ranked 15 of the 16 teams but manager Arlene Boyles believes they can upset the odds.

"Could we surprise someone? Yeah, I definitely think we could, and we're looking forward to it. We are not there to make up the numbers," she said.

"They've put in an incredible amount of effort over months and years to get to this spot."

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Ireland women happy to be World Cup underdogs

Key match-ups

The group stage throws up a number of juicy fixtures, including Germany v Argentina in Pool C (Wed, 25 July 18:00) and the Pool D trans-Tasman clash between New Zealand and Australia (Saturday, 28 July, 20:00).

England's opening game against India will be a repeat of the bronze medal match at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

India will be hoping it is a closer encounter this time around, after they were hit beaten 6-0 by a rampant England.

The venue

The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre has been expanded for the tournament, making the capacity 10,400 and almost three-times its regular size.

More than 100,000 tickets have been purchased and all England pool games have sold out as well as the quarter-final and semi-final games that could potentially feature England plus the final.

The centre is located within the London Olympic Park, but not the same venue as the 2012 Olympics, where Great Britain won bronze by beating New Zealand 3-1.

Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre
The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre has been expanded for the Hockey World Cup

BBC coverage

There will be commentary of every England match on the BBC Sport website and on BBC radio 5 live sports extra when the schedule allows.

Sara Orchard will commentate on every England match alongside Helen Richardson-Walsh for the group matches.

England group fixtures (all times BST)

July 21 - England v India, 14:00

July 25 - USA v England, 20:00

July 29 - England v Ireland, 19:00

Ireland group fixtures

July 21- USA v Ireland, 18:00

July 26 - India v Ireland, 14:00

July 29 - England v Ireland, 19:00

The medal matches will be played on August 5

Bronze match - 14:00

Gold medal match - 16:30

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