China (FIH World Ranking: 28) may have arrived in Cape Town as the fifth highest ranked team competing in the Greenfields Hockey World League Round 2 event, but they are certain to depart with at least a second place finish following a stunning semi-final victory over tournament favourites South Africa (WR: 13) on Saturday (14th March).
China’s remarkable 2-0 win over South Africa, a team that sits 15 places above them in the FIH World Rankings, is unquestionably one of the biggest shocks of the 2014-15 Edition of the Hockey World League and is a result which guarantees that the rapidly-improving Asians will feature in the Olympic qualifier phase of the HWL. Goal-scorers Liu Yixian and Sun Long were China’s heroes, making their mark to force the host nation into a must-win 3-4 classification match.
China’s opponents in the tournament final will be France (WR: 18), who were also victorious over an African nation thanks to a comprehensive 5-2 triumph over Egypt (WR: 21). Guillaume Deront, Jean-Laurent Kieffer and Olivier Sanchez got their names on the score-sheet before brothers Hugo and Tom Genestet made their contribution as France joined China in both the tournament final and the next phase of the HWL.
The 5-8 classification matches took place earlier in the day, with Czech Republic (WR: 20) defeating Azerbaijan (WR: 31) 8-2 before Switzerland (WR: 38) surged to a 5-1 win over Belarus (WR: 35).
All eight teams will be in action on Sunday (15th March), with the final day’s play getting underway with Azerbaijan and Belarus going head-to-head in the 7-8 classification match (0930 local time – UTC/GMT +2) before Czech Republic and Switzerland take to the field in the battle for 5th place (1145).
Continental rivals South Africa and Egypt (1400) will contest a hugely significant 3-4 classification match, with the prize of a place in the Olympic qualifier stage of the Hockey World League being on the line ahead of the showpiece final between China and France (1615). To see the full schedule from Cape Town, click here.
The three highest finishers in the eight-team men’s tournament, which started on Saturday 7th March and concludes on Sunday 15th March, will each be guaranteed a place in the semi-final of the competition, where places at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are available.
A total of nine qualification places for the HWL Semi-Finals are available in Round 2, with the top three finishers at each of the tournaments in Singapore (SIN), San Diego (USA) and Cape Town (RSA) all being certain to compete in the next phase. Malaysia, Poland and Japan all qualified for the HWL Semi-Finals thanks to top three finishes at the event in Singapore (SIN) earlier this year. They were then joined by Ireland, Austria and Canada at the event in San Diego last week. To learn about how the teams progress through the competition in the hope of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, click here.
You can keep track of all of the action from Cape Town on the official tournament microsite.