The World Cup is the pinnacle of any sport and for hockey it's no different. Along with the Olympic Games, being crowned a World Cup champion is a moment in any player’s sporting career that will define their sports achievements for the rest of their life. And it is fitting that the stories of World Cup drama, excitement, heart-break and ecstasy should be played out in stadiums that will also remain etched in the minds of players and spectators alike.
The Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 will take place in a venue that is fast becoming an iconic hockey stadium. As a legacy venue from the London 2012 Olympic Games, the striking blue pitches at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, provide a stunning stage on which this year’s drama will take place and players and fans alike will walk away from the Park with their own set of magical memories and standout moments.
While the current crop of top internationals will be looking to make their own golden moments in London this summer, here are four stars of the game recalling their own World Cup memories and the stadiums that played host to their achievements.
"I loved playing the World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands in 2014. It was a true hockey celebration - from the magnificence of the stadium to the events held outside the competition. The city seemed beautiful to me and I have the most wonderful memories."
Alyson Annan remains one of the greats in world hockey. With two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup gold medals, Annan was a key member of the Hockeyroos squad that dominated world hockey in the 1990s. At the 1998 World Cup in Utrecht, Netherlands, Annan was top scorer with eight goals and also voted player of the tournament.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the current Head Coach to the Netherlands names Utrecht 1998 as her favourite World Cup venue.
“I remember walking out onto the pitch for a test event. We had been held up by traffic getting to the venue, so we were frantically trying to warm up and get ready for the game while still in the team bus.
“We just saw this sea of orange [Dutch supporters] and we felt pretty naked in our new bodysuits (this was the first time the Australian team had worn their famous bodysuits in front of a large crowd). The organisation was fantastic, the atmosphere was even better and of course winning helps.”
Macarena Rodriguez of Argentina has two World Cup medals. A bronze from the 2014 Rabobank World Cup, which took place at The Hague, and a gold medal which she won while captaining the team in Rosario in 2010. Her choice of favoured venue comes as no surprise.
“I loved playing the World Cup in The Hague Netherlands 2014. It was a true hockey celebration, from the magnificence of the stadium to the events held outside the competition.
“The city seemed beautiful to me and I have the most wonderful memories; although we finished third. But if I have to choose one I prefer the 2010 Rosario Argentina World Cup in which we won and, of course, it was in front of a home crowd.
“It was incredible what we experienced in that tournament. Everything was perfect for us, and it was best feeling to have all the support and love in the stands. It was a dream come true. It was my first World Cup and I lived it to the full. In a word it was 'amazing!'"
Rosario is also the venue of choice for former England and Great Britain captain, Kate Richardson-Walsh and the current German captain Janne Müller-Wieland.
Muller-Wieland, who is likely to be leading Germany out for this year’s Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup in London, said: “I loved the stadium in Rosario 2010. Playing against Argentina in the semi-final filled with probably 14,990 Argentinian fans and the atmosphere they can create was just incredible.”
Great Britain’s most capped female player agrees. Richardson-Walsh said: “The 2010 World Cup in Rosario, Argentina, was one of my best hockey memories.
“As an England team we were making great strides forwards as we had only started our full-time Great Britain centralised programme the year before. Our bronze medal winning game versus Germany was a great scalp in extreme heat.
“Then there was the stadium and the atmosphere. Other than the London Olympic stadium in 2012 I have never played in front of such a big, noisy and passionate crowd. The stands were jumping throughout Las Leonas’ games and the rendition of the Argentinian national anthem in Rosario, in that stadium, is really something to behold. Playing in front of such a knowledgeable and impassioned crowd was a real treat and I feel very lucky to have had the chance to play there so many times.
“I’m quite sure this time around in London at the Vitality World Cup in 2018, the English crowd will put on a similarly emphatic display.”
For all the news and further information about this year's Vitality Hockey Women's World Cup, London 2018, click .