The men’s Hockey World League kicks off today in Bangladesh at Dhaka’s Moulana Bhasani National Hockey Stadium. The tournament will feature 5 Asian teams that include hosts Bangladesh along with Oman, Malaysia, China and Sri Lanka.
The eight-team competition, which takes place on Saturday 4th and Sunday 12th March, will see Egypt, Ghana, and Fiji battle with Asian teams for a top two finish in order to guarantee a place in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals, where those coveted berths at the men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 in India are up for grabs.
The competition will feature two pools of four, with the finishing positions at the end of the pool phase determining the line-up for the quarter-finals, which begin on Thursday 9th March.
Malaysia (FIH Hero World Ranking: 13) are the top ranked team in the event and will be favourites to top Pool A, where they face Oman (WR: 31), home side Bangladesh (WR: 32) and Fiji (WR: 44). Malaysia Head Coach Stephen van Huizen has selected a strong squad for the event, with veteran forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin being a notable inclusion.
“He has shown that he can still play at the very top level and has been a consistent performer, so he was selected on merit,” said Van Huizen, who will have to cope without attacking talisman Faizal Saari due to an injured hamstring.
Malaysia’s opponents on Saturday’s opening day of action will be the host nation, with Bangladesh looking to upset the FIH Hero World Rankings by claiming what would be a crowd-pleasing victory that could create a platform for a very successful competition. That said, Bangladesh – captained by experienced goal-scorer Rashel Mahmud– will have to be at their very best in order to challenge a strong and talented Malaysia team.
The two other sides in Pool A are Oman and Fiji, who will also go head to head on Saturday. Oman sits 13 places above Fiji in the FIH Hero World Rankings, but an undefeated, table-topping performance at the Round 1 event in Suva provides plenty of evidence that the Fijians should not be taken lightly.
In Pool B, China (WR: 18) and Egypt (WR: 20) are being widely tipped as likely front-runners, although Ghana (WR: 38) and Sri Lanka (WR: 41) will certainly be staking their claim. China, the highest ranked team in the pool, face Ghana in their opening match on Saturday and will be expecting a strong challenge from the winners of the Hockey World League Round 1 competition in Accra. Egypt and Sri Lanka – second place finishers behind Pool B rivals China at the Hockey World League Round 1 event in Singapore – will also be doing battle on an opening day, with Egyptian captain Amr Elhady set to make his 100th international appearance in the contest.
The top two finishers from the men’s Round 2 events in Dhaka, Belfast (11-19 Mar 2017) and Tacarigua, (25 Mar-2 Apr 2017) are certain to qualify for the Semi-Finals, being joined in the World Cup qualifier phase by the two highest ranked of the third-placed finishers from those three events.
Like all of the Round 2 events, the competition in Dhaka 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 Hero World Rankings. The highest ranked teams will enter the competition at the Semi-Final stage of the Hockey World League.