Last week may have been dominated by the thrills and spills under the roof at the Indoor Hockey World Cup in Leipzig, but this weekend the focus switches back outdoors and the dream of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as the Hockey World League rolls into Uruguay.
The sparkling South American city of Montevideo plays host to the second of six Round 2 events that will take place over the coming months, following January's men’s competition in Singapore where Malaysia won the event.
The tournament, which takes place between Saturday 14th and Sunday 22nd of February, features eight women’s teams fighting for a top two finish that would guarantee a place in the semi-final of the competition, where the coveted berths at the 2016 Olympic Games are on offer.
Like all of the upcoming Round 2 events, the competition in Montevideo will witness a clash between teams that came through the first phase of the competition against sides that were automatically given a bye through to Round 2 due to their higher placement in the FIH World Rankings. The highest ranked teams enter the tournament at the semi-final stage.
At 17th in the current FIH World Rankings, Italy are the top ranked team in the tournament and are considered to the front-runners for the title in Montevideo. Italy have a fine reputation in the Hockey World League following their brilliant performance in the 2012-13 edition, qualifying from the first two rounds to reach the semi-final phase.
Italy play in Pool A where they will face Mexico (WR: 28), home favourites Uruguay (WR: 31) and Dominican Republic (WR: 52). Mexico secured their place in Round 2 courtesy of a second place finish on home turf at the Round 1 tournament in Guadalajara (MEX), while Dominican Republic were also successful in the first phase, finishing second behind Trinidad & Tobago at the Round 1 event in Kingston (JAM).
Azerbaijan (WR: 19) are the second highest ranked team in the competition and look likely to be Italy’s biggest threat to the title in Montevideo. However, France’s (WR: 24) first place finish at the HWL R1 event in Hradec Kralove (CZE) is clear evidence that they are more than capable of causing an upset.
Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) (WR: 29) and Kenya (WR: 37) complete the line-up in Pool B, and will be determined to make their mark on Round 2 in the same way that they did in Round 1. T&T claimed the HWL R1 title in Kingston, Jamaica with a 100% win record, while Kenya secured their place in Round 2 by topping the table at their HWL R1 event on home soil in Nairobi.
You can keep track of the tournament in Montevideo on the official tournament microsite