Defroand 'chuffed' to earn England spot at Europeans
PUBLISHED: 13:00 09 August 2019
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Havering's Emily Defroand admits she was 'chuffed' to be named in the England women's squad for the EuroHockey Championships, which start in Belgium next weekend.
Former Coopers pupil Defroand, 25, is in an 18-strong party, which includes seven Olympic gold medallists from 2016, and is hoping to earn Great Britain a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Success in Antwerp would secure such a place for the defending champions and Defroand said: "It's our first chance to quality for the Olympics and I'm chuffed to be selected.
"Winning them is our first opportunity to qualify for Tokyo and it's our number one objective so we will prepare in the right way.
"This is the business end now. It's less than a year away and it's all becoming quite front and centre."
Defroand was part of the England teams that won bronze medals at the 2017 Euros and the 2018 Commonwealth Games and played for Great Britain during the inaugural FIH Pro League earlier this year.
And she feels ready to tackle the next challenge in her international career, with a combined 48 caps to her name already.
"We've had some good experience in the Pro League, playing home and away and getting games under our belts, but the Europeans are going to be huge for us," she added.
"There's a real buzz in the squad at the moment and we've had conversations about what to expect and the pressure of the tournament.
"The team is in a good place, working hard, and has every confidence of producing at the Euros and going all the way."
England will start their bid against Ireland on August 18, then face Germany the next day and Belarus in the final group game on August 21.
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The top two sides will go into the semi-finals and Defroand expects some tough competition.
"We played some practice matches with Ireland at Bisham Abbey and they are World Cup silver medallists, with a point to prove," she said.
"They will want to back up the success of last year. We're fully prepared for that and have had lots of sessions and briefings around them.
"But we've also got Germany and Belarus in our group, so they are three hard games and we want to hit the ground running."
Although the focus is on the matches immediately in front of them, Defroand admits it is hard not to think about next year's Olympics.
And having had a taste of what to expect, she is determined to do all she can to remain in the thoughts of head coach Mark Hager.
"We had an amazing trip to Japan that was quite demanding, physically and mentally, with lots of training and six games," she added.
"It was a good building block, although it was a GB trip, for all of the Home Nations ahead of the Euros, it was really beneficial.
"We were in Hiroshima for just over two weeks and it was the first chance for most of us to go to Japan.
"It was a completely different experience, with the culture and weather, the humidity and extreme heat. But it was a really enjoyable trip and we were made to feel so welcome.
"With the Rugby World Cup coming up and the Olympics next year, you can see the buzz already. Lots of sports have been out there visiting and seeing what is to come.
"It makes it more real. Next year will come around sooner than we know. I'm in a good place. I've been moving positions, I played in three different positions in Japan, and I'm really enjoying it."