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Harder for Leonas to defend title

Harder for Leonas to defend title

Posted by Juan Gavasa on November 29, 2014

They start against Germany, whom they beat 3-0 in this year’s World Cup, but lost 2-0 to them on a recent tour. Then they play World Cup finalists Australia (ranked 2) on Sunday and England on Tuesday in group B. Pool A has World Cup champions Netherlands (ranked 1), New Zealand, China and Japan. This will also be the last international tournament for captain Luciana Aymar at 37.

A new format of four periods of 15 minutes with time added on for penalty corners, goals and stoppages will be used for the first time in Argentina, supposedly for TV’s benefit and liked by coaches who will get more chances to talk to their players during games. But the unpopular format continues of all eight teams after pool play entering into a knock-out quarterfinal against rivals according to their pool placings (1st v 4th of other pool, etc.).

Argentina has five changes from the World Cup, apart from Santiago Capurro as coach instead of Carlos Retegui. Laura Aladro (River) returns as reserve goalkeeper, Julia Gomes Fantasía, Agustina Habif (both GEBA), Pilar Romang (Ciudad) and Jimena Cedrés replace María Mutio, Mariana Rossi, Giselle Juárez, Daniela Sruoga and Agustina Albertario. In practice games this week, Argentina won 2-1 and 3-0 against always hard-to-beat New Zealand.

England, who was poor in the World Cup, but only lost 2-1 against Argentina with a last shot goal, has four changes. In a squad picked only last week, injured Kate Richards Walsh and Ashley Ball plus Sally Walton and Nicola White are out while Giselle Ansley, Joie Ligh and Sheila McCallum come in, but the team looks no stronger.

At least in Mendoza it is not so hot as in Tucumán for the World League final, but Argentina play only two of their pool games at night, while the rest depend on its results.

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