Road to Rio: Hockey World League R1 - Men - Lousada (POR)
The men’s competition in Czech Republic got underway on Tuesday 2nd September, with Ukraine defeating Lithuania and Belarus overcoming the challenge from Slovakia. You can find more details on that tournament by clicking here.
In this Hockey World League Round 1 preview we head to Lousada, Portugal where the national men’s teams of Austria, Italy and the host nation will clash between 12-14 September. The event winner will be guaranteed a place in the second phase of the competition, keeping hopes of competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games very much alive.
Sitting 21st in the FIH World Rankings, Austria are the regarded by many as the tournament favourites in Lousada. They reached Round 2 of the inaugural Hockey World League and will be looking to go even further this time around. In 2013, Austria’s capital Vienna played host to the EuroHockey Championship II, with the host nation finishing in third place behind Russia and France. The Bronze medal was a fine achievement but sadly not enough for Austria to gain promotion to the top level Championship I. Michael Körper is one of Austria’s most recognisable faces thanks to his goalscoring exploits with Germany’s Harvestehuder THC, helping them to win the Euro Hockey League earlier this year.
Like Austria, 29th ranked Italy also competed in the EuroHockey Championship II competition in Vienna, but four losses in five matches resulted in their relegation into the third tier of European nations hockey. That being said, they did not give Austria an easy time of it when the two nations met in that particular tournament, with the host nation emerging narrow 2-1 winners. This is the second time that Italy have travelled to Lousada for the Hockey World League following their involvement in the Round 1 event that Portugal hosted in September 2012.
Portugal will be aiming to make the most of the home advantage and upset the FIH World Rankings table. The home favourites are ranked 44th, 15 places lower than Italy and 23 below Austria. The team gave a good account of themselves at last year’s EuroHockey Championship III event, being edged out of the Bronze medal by Belarus who claimed a dramatic 7-6 victory. It is clear that Portugal have plenty of goals in them, and if the defence can hold firm then they might just be capable of shocking their higher-ranked European rivals, something that they have done before. At the 2012 HWL R1 event in Lousada, Portugal finished in second place ahead of Morocco, Gibraltar and Italy. It proved to be enough to land the Portuguese a berth in the second phase. Will history repeat itself?
You can keep track of the results from Lousada on the official tournament microsite, 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 in July.
The September return sees no fewer than nine different Round 1 tournaments taking 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 all of the upcoming events can be found by clicking here.