By The Hockey Paper
Susannah Townsend, England’s midfield battler, believes the 2018 Women’s World Cup has bettered London 2012 for both intensity and atmosphere.
The 30-year-old missed out on selection and had to watch on as Great Britain women won bronze six years ago at the Olympic Park.
For hockey’s quadrennial showpiece, Townsend’s girlfriend has witnessed England’s two sell-out crowds in London and reported back to a player gunning for a first victory when they play Ireland on Sunday evening.
“People stand up when we’re moving forwards as they feel the excitement. That’s unheard of,” said Townsend.
“I went to London 2012 and I didn’t feel that when I was there. Hearing the crowd get back behind you here, it gets you going.”
England will need plenty more of it in a must-win final pool game against Ireland, the world No 16 side who have defied expectations.
“We would like to be where Ireland are now. We have got better with every game,” said Townsend, 28.
“The plan doesn’t really change for us, we go into every game to win and pressure isn’t a bad thing.”
England can close in on a first win of the tournament if they are able to continue making hay with their forward running and circle penetrations.
They have closed out games with domination aplenty – 60 per cent against the USA – and believe the time is right to finally click.
Townsend added: “If we can do that, the goals will come flowing and we will get our corners in.
“We haven’t scored from our penalty corners which is something we need to do and we aren’t going to pretend it’s something we’re not focusing on.”
Laura Unsworth, the East Grinstead defender who played in London 2012, backed up her team-mate.
She said: “Playing Ireland, a home nation, is always a tricky affair.
“But If we can keep creating chances, which we are doing, and put them away, then results look a little bit different.
“We are going to make the most of it. Playing in front of 10,000 is a rare occurrence and everyone is positive and in a good place from the last two matches.”
Unsworth suggested that England’s defensive performances against India and USA had been a standout in the first week of the tournament.
“If you could compare it to a normal match, they have had one or two shots per match, which is pretty much unheard of in international hockey,” she added.
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