The women’s EuroHockey Indoor Championship III gets under way on Saturday in Bratislava with a three-team tournament with host Slovakia (WR: 25) coming up against Italy (unranked) and Portugal (WR: 29).
The three nations will play each other twice in a round-robin, looking to make it into Sunday afternoon’s final for the top two.
It takes place at the same venue in 2020 where both Portugal and Slovakia took part, the former edging out the hosts 3-1.
Claudia Fidalgo was on the mark in that fixture, running up six goals in five games in the tournament and she will again be a key player along with Ana Noguera.
Portugal’s panel is drawn mainly from Lisbon Casuals, GD Viso and CF Benfica while Joanna Silva brings experience from the German leagues where she plays with Gladbacher HTC.
They ended up in third place with Slovakia a place behind them in fourth. Daniela Sutovska was the goalkeeper of the tournament and the 24-year-old will be in situ for her third edition of the competition.
Captain Natalia Fondrkova was the star shooter in 2020, netting nine times and has scored 21 times in 25 internationals indoors. Theirs is a maturing side with many of the teenagers deployed two years ago still around with extra know-how in their locker.
For Italy, it is their first entry in international indoor since 2012, ending a 10-year hiatus and all bar one of their panel will be making their debuts in a national jersey on the boards.
They are coached by former Czech player Richard Kotrc while their panel also includes ex-Ukraine player Maryna Vynohradova. The now 39-year-old played in the 2002 World Cup outdoors and the Indoor World Cups in 2007, 2011 and 2015. She has represented Italy since 2018.
Martina Chirico (92 caps) and Eleonora di Mauro (80) have vast outdoor experience while Ilaria Sarnari is in the current wider Italian panel outdoors.
They are looking to reignite their indoor hopes and start the journey back up to the top tier where they played in 2008, as well as 1990 and 1981.
This event will not be live streamed; to follow the event in real time, updates are available via: https://tms.fih.ch/competitions/1463