This Sunday, the first ever FIH Women’s Champions Challenge II tournament gets underway, with the Russian city of Kazan playing host to eight international teams in what promises to be an exciting event.
The tournament takes place from 21-27 June 2009, and will feature India (14th in the world rankings), Ireland (15th), Ukraine (18th), Canada (19th), Belgium (20th), Russia (23rd) Malaysia (24th) and Belarus (26th). The eight teams have been split into two pools of four, with Belarus, Belgium, Canada and India playing in Pool A, with Pool B consisting of Ireland, India, Malaysia, Russia and Ukraine. The teams will all be involved in Pool match action on Sunday 21st, Monday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd of June, with Classification matches taking place on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th June. Kazan’s state of the art hockey centre will provide a truly world class facility for an event that is eagerly anticipated by the players and coaches.
India (Pool A) and Ireland (Pool B) are the two highest ranked teams in the tournament, and are expected by many to finish top of their respective Pools. Ireland Coach Gene Muller believes his team is capable of producing strong performances during this event. “The Champions Challenge II tournament will provide us with some much needed tournament experience,” said Muller. “The tournament is open with many teams of a similar ranking all wanting to progress up the world rankings. I expect us to play well as the players have worked hard this year.”
However, India and Ireland are not expected to have it all their own way during the tournament. Russia are on home soil and will be determined to make in impact in front of their own supporters, whilst the players of Belgium, Ukraine and Canada believe that they also have a strong chance of doing well in this competition. “We are a young team right now but I’m really excited about the direction our program is heading and I think we have the potential to surprise a few teams in this tournament,” said Canada’s leading cap holder Stephanie Jameson. “It’s great to compete against countries that are ranked just above and below us, and to see how we stack up against them.”
The opening match of the tournament sees India take on Belgium, a game that will not be an easy one for the favourites. The two teams played each other in the very same venue in the Kazan Olympic Qualifier last April, with Belgium recording a brilliant 3-2 victory. India will be looking to avenge that defeat when the two sides meet on Sunday morning at 10.00 (GMT +3). The second match of the day will also be a Pool A clash, as Canada aim to get their tournament off to a flying start by defeating Belarus at 12.00. The first of the Pool B matches takes place at 16.00, as Ukraine and Malaysia go head-to-head, before host nation Russia play their first match against the much fancied Ireland.
The Champions Challenge II is a new FIH World Level event introduced to the calendar this year, featuring the best teams that did not qualify for the Champions Trophy or the Champions Challenge I. The tournament will be held every two years, with the winner of this year’s event securing a place in the 2011 Champions Challenge I. The Men’s Champions Challenge II – featuring Japan, Ireland, Poland, Chile, Malaysia, France, Austria and Russia – will take place in Dublin, Ireland from 6-12 July 2009.
You can keep track of the news from the Women’s Champions Challenge II right here on www.worldhockey.org, with results, official match reports and rankings being added to the tournament page in the Events & Results section.
A daily summary of all the action from Kazan will be available in the news section of this website on Sunday evening.
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