The Hero Hockey India League is reaching it's exciting climax as four teams prepare to do battle in the semi-finals. After 30 hockey matches, over 26 days, it all comes down to just four more matches before one team is crowned Hero Hockey India League champion.
The first semi-final, which takes place at 5.30pm (local time) at the Ranchi Hockey Stadium on Saturday will see the Delhi Waveriders take on the Uttar Pradesh Wizards; while the second match, which follows at 8pm, will pit title holders Ranchi Rhinos against the table-topping Jaypee Punjab Warriors. The winners meet in a grand final at 8pm on Sunday evening at the Ranchi Hockey Stadium. Third and fourth place will be decided in the preceding match at 6pm.
Delhi Waveriders, who have led the table for much of the competition, will hope to inflict a consecutive semi-final defeat on the Uttar Pradesh Wizards, but Wizard's coach Reolant Oltmans said: "We qualified for the semi-final last year, and this year we hope to make it to the finals. We had great momentum at the start of the tournament and we want to keep that going."
And in the other semi-final the Ranchi Rhinos will be very aware of Jaypee Punjab Warriors improvement over the course of the tournament. The Warrior's coach, Barry Dancer, said: "We have improved with every game and are a much better team now while entering the crucial stage of the league." In the pool games, the Warriors inflicted two defeats on their semi-final opponents, but the Ranchi Rhinos had been missing key players through injury, so coach Gregg Clarke is hoping to reverse the results and give the home crowd something to cheer about.
With less than 100 days to go before the start of the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, the intensity and quality of the hockey that has been played at the Hero Hockey India League has been good match preparation for the players involved.
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