The final Hockey Series Open event of the season is an intriguing four team competition involving some nations who are taking their first tentative steps into major international competition.
Taking part in the Haier Hockey Series Open in Lahore, Pakistan and vying for a place at the Hockey Series Finals in 2019 are: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Nepal and Uzbekistan.
Of these four, only two hold FIH Hero World Rankings – Uzbekistan are ranked 55th in the world, while Kazakhstan sit at 86th.
While Uzbekistan would be expected to win this competition based on world rankings, it is Kazakhstan who have the invaluable experience of recent high level international competition. Earlier this year, the central Asian nation competed in the Hockey Indoor World Cup, and many of that team will be appearing in Lahore, including the captain Daulet Urmanov and skilful midfielders Yermek Tashkeyev and Meirlan Toibekov.
Uzbekistan has a highly experienced group of players, including the oldest player in the competition, Enver Ismailov. Also adding their maturity to the mix will be Makhmud Kholmatov and the captain Golib Kalandarov. Coach Oybek Patidinov will hope these players can provide a defensive spring board for his talented attack to work from.
At time of writing neither Afghanistan or Nepal had submitted team lists, but expect both sides to arrive in Lahore with a group of players determined to make the most of their opportunity to get on the road to Tokyo 2020. The winner of this competition will play in the Hockey Series Final, from which the winner and runner-up will progress to the Olympic qualifiers later in the year.
The competition, which begins on the 17 December, opens with a match-up between the top ranked team Uzbekistan and a team that will present an element of surprise, Afghanistan. The tournament takes a round robin format, with each team playing each other once. The final match, on 22 December, will be between the two ranked teams – Zakakhstan and Uzbekistan.
For a full schedule, plus results as they happen, click .