(Photo: Kenya Hockey Facebook Page. )

The Hockey World League, the tournament that makes the dream of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a possibility for every hockey playing nation, returns to action this September. In the second of our Round 1 event previews, we take a look at the men’s competition that takes place in Nairobi where Egypt (FIH World Ranking: 22), Ghana (WR: 42), Tanzania (unranked) and host nation Kenya (WR: 39) will fight it out in a bid to reach Round 2.  

If the FIH World Rankings are anything to go by, Egypt will certainly be the team to beat in Nairobi. The Egyptians - who have finished as runners up to South Africa in each of the last five Africa Cup for Nations Continental Championship tournaments - are ranked 17 places higher than nearest rivals Kenya and have form in the HWL, winning the Round 1 event that took place in Accra in September 2012 during the inaugural season. 

Egypt’s strongest challenge is expected to come from host nation Kenya (pictured), who were Bronze medallists at the 2013 Africa Cup for Nations. They will be determined to make home advantage count against their higher ranked opponents, and their narrow 3-2 defeat to Egypt in the Africa Cup for Nations suggests that they are more than capable of doing so.  

Ghana also ran Egypt close in that competition before losing 4-3, providing plenty of evidence that this event is far from being a forgone conclusion. Tanzania are currently unranked and remain something of an unknown quantity, but you can be sure that they will be giving absolutely everything in a bid to make their mark on the Hockey World League. The event will be a key moment in Tanzania's hockey development following their involvement in the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. 

Nairobi will also play host to a women’s Round 1 event from 5-7 September featuring Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. 

You can keep track of the results from Nairobi on the official tournament website, with FIH.CH bringing a full summary of the action upon the completion of the event. 

The second edition of the Hockey World League got underway earlier this year, with the women’s teams of Malaysia and Belarus emerging triumphant at respective Round 1 events in Singapore and Lithuania before Russia men stormed to victory in Croatia last month. 

The September return will see no fewer than nine different Round 1 tournaments will take place over 13 action-packed days, with Czech Republic, Kenya, Bangladesh, Oman and Mexico playing host to the various men’s and women’s events. The remaining Round 1 competitions will be played in Jamaica (30 September - 5 October 2014) and Fiji (6-13 December 2014), both of which will feature men’s and women’s tournaments. 

The winning team at each event is guaranteed a place in Round 2 of the Hockey World League, where they will be joined by a number of the highest-placed finishers from the Round 1 tournaments. Round 2 will also see the introduction of the teams placed from 12 to 19 in the FIH World Rankings with the sides ranked 1 to 11 starting their journey in Round 3, where tickets for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as well as qualification for the Finals tournament are up for grabs.  

More information about the Hockey World League and the upcoming events can be found by clicking here.