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With less than one month until the first of the Men's Hockey World League Semi-Finals bursts into action and it is with great anticipation that England waits to host this exciting, Hockey World Cup 2018 qualifier.
Chief Executive of England Hockey is Sally Munday and she is positively bubbling with enthusiasm as the count-down progresses. “The Hockey World League is another major event that we are bringing to London and is a hugely important for our men’s team as they seek to qualify for next year’s World Cup. The fan base for hockey in England is growing and we are really looking forward to showcasing top level international hockey back at Olympic Park in London this June.”
An exciting roster of 10 teams will line up in London, seeking the dual prize of a place in the prestigious end-of-year Hockey World League Final, plus the chance to gain automatic qualification for the blue riband event – the 2018 World Cup. Important ranking points will also be a valuable asset for the teams competing in England's capital from 15-25 June.
There will be some interesting match-ups during this competition. Some of the lower-ranked nations are little known quantities on the wider global scene, so preparations will have been challenging.
India for example, the team ranked number sixth in the FIH Hero World Rankings, last played Scotland (World ranking 23) in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games, when the score was 6-2 to India. The Asian champions have not faced the resurgent Blue Sticks since and may face a tricky opening Pool B match at the hands of Scotland.
Argentina come to England as the team ranked number one in the world. The last time they played in London was 2012, where they finished a disappointing 10th in the 2012 Olympic Games. What a turn around Carlos Retegui and his men have achieved in the intervening five years. Bronze medallists at the 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympic Champions and the side that knocked Australia from the number one spot after three years of Kookaburra dominance. There is little doubt Argentina will be the team to beat in Pool A, but they will face some tricky competition as all the teams will be after that all-important World Cup qualification.
When it comes to style of play, fans at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be in for a treat. The five teams from the Asian continent will offer a very different playing style to their European and north American counterparts.
The silky skills and high tempo but unpredictability of Pakistan (WR:13) will be in stark contrast to the smooth passing and structured play of the Netherlands (WR: 4), another mouth-watering encounter on day one of competition.
The other three teams from Asia - Korea, Malaysia and China, ranked 12,14, and 18 respectively, are teams that have been making sure and steady progress over the past few years. Malaysia and China both qualified for this event via the Hockey World League Round 2 in Bangladesh, where they impressed with their ability to create scoring opportunities and maintain composure under pressure.
There will be a strong contingent of Canadian fans in London and the team currently ranked 11th will hope to repay their faith with a repeat of 2015, when they made it to the Hockey World League Finals and qualified for Rio 2016.
If London is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, then the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is at the very hub of multiculturalism. It’s not just the players who are representing hockey from around the globe, it is the fans that turn out in their numbers sporting the colours and flags of their nations; it's the press and broadcast media who spread words and pictures about the drama and excitement that is taking place on the pitch.
This Hockey World League Semi-Final event is a great way to start a busy few weeks of hockey action and fans everywhere can look forward to watching, cheering and celebrating the achievements of their favourite players. For more information about the Men's Hockey World League Semi-Final in London and how to buy tickets, click here. And for more information about all the Hockey World League Semi-Final events taking place this summer, click here.