Ireland and Russia have marked themselves as the teams to beat at the men’s Hockey World League Round 2 event in San Diego, with both nations making it three wins from three to top the Pool tables ahead of Thursday’s quarter-finals.
Ireland (FIH World Ranking: 15) came into this event as one of the tournament favourites and have so far more than justified that tag with a trio of high quality performances. A Mitch Darling hat-trick helped the Green Machine record an 8-0 win over Chile (WR: 25) on the opening day before victories over European rivals Austria (WR: 22 – 3-1) and Italy (WR: 32 – 2-0) ensured that they topped Pool A with a 100 percent win record.
Feared goal-scorer Michael Körper helped Austria claim second place in Pool A by netting crucial goals in victories over Italy and Chile. Körper, Alexander Bele and Dominic Uher were all on target in both the 3-1 win over the Italians and the 5-1 triumph against Chile, with penalty corner ace Körper grabbing a double against the South Americans.
In Pool B, the performances of Russia (WR: 19) have really caught the eye. The team qualified for the event in San Diego by winning the HWL R1 tournament in Sveti Ivan Zelina (Croatia) and started Pool B as the second ranked team behind highly-rated Canada (WR: 14). However, impressive wins over Trinidad & Tobago (WR: 30 - 8-0), Canada (2-1) and USA (WR: 27 - 4-2) confirmed a first place finish in the Pool for a team that is clearly riding high on a wave of confidence. The triumph over higher-ranked Canada was certainly their most significant result, with the Russians fighting back from a goal down to emerge victorious thanks to second half strikes from Nikolay Komarov and Alexander Palyanitsa.
Wins over USA (5-2) and Trinidad & Tobago (3-0) gave Canada a second place finish in the Pool, with USA taking third place ahead of the Caribbean islanders. USA star Pat Harris currently leads the scoring chart with four goals to his name, having marked his 100th international appearance with a goal against Canada on the opening day before netting a hat-trick in a 7-1 victory over Trinidad & Tobago.
In the quarter-final phase, the two Pool winners will face the sides that finished bottom of the other Pool, with Ireland going head-to-head with Trinidad & Tobago while Russia face Chile. Canada versus Italy and Austria versus host nation USA completes Thursday’s QF line-up. To see all tournament fixtures and results, please click here.
The three highest finishers in the eight-team men’s tournament, which started on Saturday 28th February and concludes on Sunday 8th Mach, will each be guaranteed a place in the semi-final of the competition, where coveted berths at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are up for grabs.
A total of nine qualification places for the HWL Semi-Finals are available in Round 2, with the top three finishers at each of the tournaments in Singapore (SIN), San Diego (USA) and Cape Town (RSA) all being certain to compete in the next phase. Malaysia, Poland and Japan all qualified for the HWL Semi-Finals thanks to top three finishes at the event in Singapore (SIN) earlier this year. To learn about how the teams progress through the competition in the hope of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, click here.
You can keep track of all of the action from San Diego on the official tournament microsite.