The FIH Hockey World League Semi-final round in London is scheduled from June 15-25. The competition has an added importance. It doubles up as the qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. Pakistan will be in the fray, hoping to make it to the World Cup, having missed out the last time in 2014 — for the first time ever. They also failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics; another dubious first.
The FIH Hockey World League is an international competition organised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). It was introduced in 2012-13. The current edition of 2016-17 is only the third one.
The competition, which is held after every two years, also serves as the qualifier for the Hockey World Cup (men and women’s) and the Olympics.
Both men and women’s tournament have four rounds. For each edition the FIH decides the number of events and teams for each round.
Even the smallest hockey-playing nations have the opportunity to write their own chapter in hockey’s history books.
The number of Round 1 events varies in each cycle depending on the number of participating national teams. Teams are grouped regionally, although European teams are split in several tournaments. By grouping teams regionally, the travel costs are minimised.
The remaining rounds have teams selected with no regional restrictions.
The top teams receive a bye to a Round 2 or Semifinal event depending on the FIH World Rankings at the time of seeking entries.
For instance, in the ongoing 2016-17 HWL, Pakistan have been given a bye directly to the Semi-final round.
Qualification system for Hockey World Cup 2018
The Hockey World Cup 2018 will consist of 16 teams.
The following teams are eligible to play in the Hockey World Cup 2018
Host Nation – India 1 team: the host nation of the Hockey World Cup 2018 (automatic qualification).
Continental Qualification: 5 teams
The five (5) continental champions, the winners of: Africa, 11th Africa Cup for Nations (August 2017); America, 5th Pan American Cup (August 2017); Asia, 10th Asia Cup (2017- dates to be finalised); Europe, 16th EuroHockey Nations Championship (August 2017); Oceania, 10th Men’s Oceania Cup (2017).
Hockey World League: 10/11 teams
a) The 10 highest placed teams in the two Semi Final tournaments of the Hockey World League 2017 (which have not qualified under 1.1 and 1.2.)
b) If India are also the winners of the 10th Asia Cup, the 11th highest placed team in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals 2017, which has not qualified under 1.1 and 1.2.
c) In a and b, where the last place available is shared between teams that finish in the same position in the two different Hockey World League Semi-Final Events, the team to qualify will be the one which has the highest FIH World Ranking at the time of the completion of the latter of the two HWL Semi-Finals.
Pakistan will figure in the first of the two 2017 HWL Semi-Finals in London, from June 15-25. The other Semi-Final will be played in Johannesburg, South Africa, from July 9-23.
HWL Semifinal in Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London:
Pool A: Argentina, England, South Korea, Malaysia and China.
Pool B: Netherlands, India, Canada, Pakistan and Scotland.
Pakistan’s Pool Matches: vs Netherlands (June 15), vs Canada (June 16), vs India (June 18), vs Scotland (June 19).
Quarter-Finals and 9th/10th place match: June 22.
Semi-Finals and matches for 5th-8th place: June 24.
Final and 3rd/4th, 5th/6th & 7th/8th place matches: June 25.
India-Pakistan rivalry in hockey is arguably more intense than it is in cricket. Although the two former hockey powers have been out of the reckoning for a long time, Pakistan-India hockey match is still a draw card for hockey lovers all over the world.
Sunday, June 18, has been labeled as the Super Sunday as the hosts England take on the Olympic champions Argentina after the Pakistan-India clash. All this has lured Hero MotoCorp to be the title sponsors of the event. It will be ‘Men’s Hero Hockey World League Semi-Final, London 2017’.
Pakistan team has been preparing hard for the HWL Semi-Final. The national team toured Down Under in March during which they played bilateral series in New Zealand and Australia. In New Zealand, the 13th ranked Green-shirts defeated the eighth-ranked hosts 2-1 in the five-test series.
Pakistan lost all the four tests against World champions Australia, but their performance improved with every match: 1-6, 0-3, 0-2 and 3-5.
In the first week of June, Pakistan played three tests against the 9th- ranked Ireland at latter’s backyard. Pakistan failed to win a single match but all the tests were close contests.
The first test was a 2-2 draw. Ireland won the last two matches by the identical score of 3-2.
It should be a well-tuned Pakistan side at the HWL Semi-Final in London.
The importance of World Cup qualification can’t be over emphasised for the national game’s future in the country.