Captain Rybacha and her team looking forward to the challenge of Europe’s elite
The Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 will see Poland women make their debut, marking their sharp rise into the elite of European hockey.
In London they will join seven other teams to battle it out for the European title, knowing that a win will also guarantee qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Ambitions of European titles and Olympic qualification may be a step too far at their inaugural EuroHockey Championships, but this Polish team is confident of making their mark according to their captain Marlena Rybacha.
Speaking to eurohockey2015.co.uk, Rybacha said: “It’s the first time in our history (they are competing in the EuroHockey Championships) so we are extremely excited about it. We don’t have big expectations. For us, the most important thing is to learn from the best teams in Europe. We have a great opportunity to compete against them and improve step by step as a team. But expect us to play hard because we want to stay at this top level.”
Consistency has been the key for this Polish team. For the past few years the same group of players have been involved in the national team, guided by head coach Krzysztof Rachwalski.
Speaking of this, Rybacha said: “We all know each other really well and continually develop together. Every year we are getting more experience at international level, so we are playing more efficiently and making better decisions. We are creating our own hockey style with more effective tactics.”
Over the past few months, Poland have been participating in several international events. They started with a strong performance in Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 in Delhi, India where they finished second behind their hosts.
That qualified them for the HWL Semi-Finals in Antwerp, Belgium, where they faced some of the best teams in the world, including Australia, Belgium, India and New Zealand. While they lost heavily to the Oceania teams, they did defeat France 5-1 to finish ninth overall.
Despite their losses in Belgium, captain Rybacha spoke of the positives: “We definitely learnt a lot playing against teams like Australia and New Zealand at the tournament. After Antwerp we were all given individual programmes to work on before we go on a national camp just before the EuroHockey Championships.”
Ranked 24 in the world, Poland are looking to secure qualification for the next edition of this event by finishing in the top six.
First up for them is a game against world number one ranked Netherlands. Despite the gulf between the two teams, the Polish captain is looking forward to a good game. She said: “The Dutch are a quality side with great experience, and I know a lot of the girls from living and playing in Holland for the past few years. Hopefully some of that experience will help us in defence. That will give us a good base to hold some possession and build some attacking opportunities. We are definitely looking forward to that challenge and learning from the world’s best.”
The EuroHockey Championships will certainly be a learning experience for the Polish women, but with each competition they grow stronger and with that they will surely be in and around the top level of world hockey for years to come.
For more information about the event, and to buy tickets, visit: http://eurohockey2015.co.uk