Some of the best men’s international hockey teams in the world are heading for Paris for the 2nd INSEP Hockey Challenge, which commences on 26 July.
Current World Champions Australia will head the field, being joined by London Cup winners Korea, Champions Challenge 2 winners Ireland, skilful South Americans Argentina and the hugely promising and youthful France, the host nation.
Sandra Harik, the 2011 Tournament organiser, is pleased with the strong field of teams in this year’s event, saying, “It is fantastic for France hockey to have some of the top teams in the world competing here in Paris. It is also great for INSEP to be able to show these teams the amazing facilities we have.”
The inaugural INSEP Hockey Challenge was held in August 2010 with great success. Malaysia won the tournament over France, Ireland, Poland and Scotland.
This year’s tournament will once again provide an opportunity for international teams to further their objectives in a competitive environment, utilising the world class facilities at INSEP, the National Institute of Sport.
France hockey fans will be treated to a quality of hockey rarely seen at home, and in Australia the fans will have the chance to witness the world’s number 1 team in action. However, it is well known that they have suffered a number of injuries to key players in recent months, including top defender Mark Knowles, influential midfielder Rob Hammond and current FIH Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer. Despite this, the depth of their squad has enabled them to continue to produce outstanding results, notably winning the title at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia in May against a very strong field. In 2010 the team coached by legendary tactician and former player Ric Charlesworth claimed the World Cup and the Champions Trophy, the latter of which they will be aiming to win again in New Delhi at the end of the year.
Korea, currently ranked six in the world, are currently in outstanding form, having just won the London Cup ahead of the likes of New Zealand, Belgium and England, the fourth best team in the world. They are yet to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, but were strong performers at the 2010 World Cup and will be fielding a very experienced line up, with the majority of their players having 100 international caps or more. Their most in-form player is undoubtedly Nam Young Lee, who was named Player of the Tournament at the London Cup having netted no fewer than seven goals in just four matches, all of which came from open play.
Argentina is currently ranked 11th in the world due to their shock non-qualification at the 2008 Olympic Games. Despite this, they have been regular World Cup and Olympic Games attendees for the last 20 years, and were ranked world number 6 in 2009. Argentina have some fantastic players in their ranks, many of which represent some of Europe’s finest club. Lucas and Rodrigo Vila – the latter of which returns to the Argentina squad after a lengthy absence – were both part of the HGC team which won this year’s Euro Hockey League. The team are coached by Pablo Lombi, brother of legendary striker Jorge Lombi who is also part of the backroom staff in the role of assistant coach.
Ireland are currently ranked 18th in the world, but will be buoyed by their recent success at the 2011 Champions Challenge 2 in Lille and are emerging as a serious contender for a top ten ranking position. They are team full of youthful exuberance and are improving at a rapid rate. The side are lead by defender Ronan Gormley, who plays his club hockey in Madrid for Club de Campo, a team that reached the final of this year’s Euro Hockey League. No fewer than ten of Ireland’s 18-strong squad play their club hockey overseas, with players representing teams in Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium and England.
Commenting on the impending competition, Ireland coach Paul Revington said: “We are very fortunate to be attending this event and especially considering the quality of opposition we will be facing. The games are well timed as we continue to develop various areas of our team play through the summer. Our squad is provided with an immediate opportunity to press on after some success in Lille a fortnight ago.”
France is currently ranked 17th in the world, and is chasing their first qualification to the Olympic Games since 1972. After a strong win over hockey powerhouses Pakistan in June, France finished second to Ireland in the 2011 Champions Challenge 2 final. Team coach Scott Goodheart is developing a young side that is clearly packed with potential, having shown great form at the recent Champions Challenge 2 event in Lille where they finished in second place, hugely impressive for a squad that entered the tournament with 12 players having played less than 50 internationals. 30-year-old Arnaud Becuwe is their most experienced player, while the team is captained by Francois Scheefer, who is just 23.
France National Coach Scott Goodheart is also looking forward to the prospect of another challenging tournament for his young charges. “This is a great opportunity to give our players further experience at this level. The hockey will be world class, and this is one of the last chances we will have to try different combinations of players in an international competition prior to the Euro Nations Championships in August” said Goodheart.
The tournament will start at 15:30hrs (Local time – CEST / GMT +1) on Tuesday 26 July, when Korea will meet Ireland, and later that evening, at 18:00hrs, France will take on Argentina. Australia will play their first game of the tournament on Wednesday 27 July, doing battle against Ireland at 16:00hrs.
Fixtures – All times are local (GMT +1)
Tuesday 26 July 2011
15.30 Korea v Ireland
18.00 France v Argentina
Wednesday 27 July 2011
16.00 Australia v Ireland
Thursday 28 July 2011
15.30 Australia v Argentina
18.00 France v Korea
Friday 29 July 2011
16.00 Ireland v Argentina
Saturday 30 July 2011
15.00 Australia v Korea
17.30 France v Ireland
Sunday 31 July 2011
13.00 Argentina v Korea
15.30 France v Australia
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