The Hockey World League, the tournament that makes the dream of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a possibility for every hockey playing nation, returns to action at the start of September.
No fewer than nine different Round 1 tournaments will take 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 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.
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 last month.
The first phase of the Hockey World League resumes on 2nd September when the men’s Round 1 tournament gets underway in Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic, with Ukraine (FIH World Ranking: 24), Belarus (WR: 37) and HWL newcomers Slovakia (WR: 54) and Lithuania (unranked) joining the host nation.
With an FIH World Ranking of 20, Czech Republic will start the event as tournament favourites and will certainly take some stopping on home soil. The hosts have produced a string of top class players in recent years such as drag-flicking defender Tomasz Prochazka and Filip Neusser (pictured), widely regarded as one of the world’s finest goalkeepers.
However, the home team are likely to face strong competition from Ukraine and Belarus, two nations that finished ahead of the Czech Republic at a Hockey World League Round 1 tournament in Prague. The Czechs will be desperate to avoid a repeat, ensuring that it will be a fascinating showdown.
Hradec Králové will also play host to a women’s Round 1 event from 5-7 September featuring Czech Republic, Austria, France and Turkey.
You can keep track of the results from Hradec Králové on the official tournament microsite with FIH.CH bringing a full summary of the action upon the completion of the event.
Photograph: FIH/Frank Uijlenbroek