Saturday, May 18, 2024

Hockey World Cup: Maria Granatto stock rises as ‘next Luciana Aymar’ for Argentina

Argentina great Delfina Merino nicknamed her ‘Demon’’; presumably for the way her poker-hot stick terrorises opponents.

Supremely-gifted and a forward-thinking runner at heart, Maria ‘Majo’ Granatto, who burst onto the scene in 2016, is also breathtaking to watch with a stick in her hand.

I have seen plenty of racket and stick-wielding players across squash and hockey in the last 15 years. Men’s squash player Ramy Ashour is without doubt the best exponent I have ever seen – the racket effectively an extension of his arm – thanks to the Egyptian’s mind blowing, deft hand artistry and ingenuity.

Put Granatto in that bracket.

With over 150 caps and nearing 60 goals for Las Leonas, pressure has been heaped upon 27-year-old Granatto.

The youngest of three sisters (her older sibling Vicky is also in Argentina’s World Cup team), she has, for the last five years, been billed as the Las Leonas player to step into Luciana Aymar’s shoes while wearing the No 10 shirt. 

‘Messi, Maradona, Majo’ the FIH even tweeted after one dashing bit of circle stick skill in the group stages, where she pushed the ball through her legs with the unorthodox ease of a Sunday morning maté or the Devil herself concocting another potion to bamboozle defenders. 

There has been general wizardry ever since she was announced as world player of the year in 2016 and 2017. 

Five years on, this Women’s World Cup could also end as the Granatto Games. Maria (twice) and Vicky have cleaned up the player of the match awards in Argentina’s matches against South Korea, Spain and Canada respectively.

While England will be wary of her threat running at angles and into the circle – England say they won’t focus on individual players – their one salvation could come in the form of any shoot-out that may occur. Granatto hates them.

TERRASSA 2022 Women’s World Cup Spain & Netherlands Argentina v Canada (Pool C) Picture: Maria-Jose Granatto WORLDSPORTPICS COPYRIGHT RODRIGO JARAMILLO

Regardless, there are plenty of other Las Leonas who can step up with ease. Asked for her opinion on Maria, who has netted twice in three games, and her trickery which has lit up social media over the last week, Helen Richardson-Walsh told THP: “She is one of many who Argentina has produced.

“She tries different skills and she is really tricky to play against. 

“She is a quality player and it’s great to have players like her in the team.”

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