The Pools and schedule for the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 was officially released by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) today.
The 16 national women's teams qualified for the event now know who they will face in next year's pinnacle event. Fans can also get in on the action with all remaining tickets now released for general public sale via the .
A look at the schedule reveals some fantastic match-ups as the top teams in the world prepare to go head-to-head.
In Pool A, the world number one side and current holders of the World Cup, Netherlands, await the challenge of Asian giants China and Korea as well as rising European stars Italy.
Pool B is headed by the host nation and world number two team England. They will face tough challenges from USA, who won the 2017 Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg, recently crowned Asian champions India, and Ireland.
Argentina are ranked number three in the world, and they have European rivals Germany and Spain to contend with, along with African continental champions South Africa in Pool C.
Pool D sees Oceania rivals Australia and New Zealand go head to head along with Japan and 2017 Rabobank EuroHockey Championship runners-up Belgium.
There are some amazing games to look forward to in the Pool stages, with many matches guaranteed to have fans on the edge of their seats.
England versus USA is becoming a regular and compelling rivalry. From the USA’s demolition of England’s chances at this event in 2014, to the recent quarter-final win by England over USA in Auckland at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Finals – the two teams play a similar, structured style and have an equally hard-working ethos. This Pool B meeting will be one more chapter of this on-going rivalry.
In Pool A, one fixture that is certain to be fiercely contested is the all-Asia clash between China and Korea. One ranking point separates these teams, with China the higher ranked nation. However, at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final in Auckland, it was Korea who finished in the top-four, while China were left playing for 7/8th spot. Finishing positions were reversed at the Asia Cup when China took silver and Korea finished in the bronze medal position.
South Africa spent time away from top international competition when they didn’t compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics. Since then the team has been rebuilt and the new domestic professional league has had the desired impact, providing the players with a high level of competition. How this will translate onto the biggest stage of all remains to be seen, but South Africa’s physicality against Spain’s flair and intensity will be an intriguing spectacle.
Pool D will see a clash between the Oceania giants Australia and New Zealand. Ranked fourth and fifth in the world respectively, the two teams relish the chance to go at each other and, on a World Cup stage, the competition will be even more intense. Australia might be the undisputed continental champions but New Zealand have enjoyed a fantastic medal-winning run at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final and will be full of confidence.
The Pool C match that has the potential to be the most bruising encounter is the fixture between European rivals Germany and Spain on 28 July. Whilst Germany have been steadily progressing since their Rio 2016 bronze medal they have not forgotten their 2-1 loss to the Spanish during the Olympics. Both teams contain some amazingly talented and passionate athletes who have yet to hit their potential. Could 2018 be either team's year?
With England's 10,000-seater Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park sold out for six sessions, including all England's Pool matches - plus their potential quarter-final, the semi-finals and final, fans should not hesitate in snapping up the remaining tickets.
For those who can't make it to the venue, this event will be broadcast to millions across the world in over 100 countries through FIH's global broadcaster partners.
With eight months between now and the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 and today's release of the match schedule, the countdown has really begun.
Keep up to date with all the latest news about this event via the and through FIH social media channels - , , and Snapchat.