Lausanne, Switzerland: The latest event in the Hockey Series Open is up and running in Gniezno, Poland, where six men’s teams are currently chasing a top two finish in order to secure a place in the next phase of the competition to keep alive hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Host nation Poland (FIH Hero World Ranking: 21) are the top ranked side in the competition and enjoyed an extremely positive start by claiming a 17-0 triumph over Cyprus (WR:60), finishing Tuesday’s opening day at the top of the standings on goal difference. Ten players made a mark on the score-sheet, with Mikolaj Gumny and Mateusz Hubloj both scoring hat tricks as the home favourites reminded everyone that they are very much the team to beat.
Ukraine (WR:25) were also winners on the opening day, storming to an 11-1 victory over Lithuania (WR:48). Oleh Polishchuk scored a hat-trick of field goals in the rout, with Maksym Onofriiuk also scoring twice for a Ukrainian side aiming to emulate the success of their female compatriots, who booked their place in the Hockey Open Finals with a first place finish in Vilnius at the weekend. Ukraine ended the day sitting second in the table level on points with Poland but with an inferior goal difference.
The most surprising result of the day came in the opening match of the competition, when Italy (WR:37) claimed a surprise 4-3 triumph over higher-ranked Czech Republic (WR:28). The Italians stunned the Czechs by scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes, with team captain Agustin Nunez netting a penalty corner before Pietro Lago’s field goal doubled the advantage. Strikes either side of the quarter-time break from Tomas Prochazka and Jan Zelezny pulled the Czechs level, but Italy reestablished their two goal buffer in the third quarter as Lago and Luca da Gai found the target. Adam Uhlir reduced the deficit with three minutes of the match remaining to set up a dramatic finale, but it was the Italians who went away with all three points to make a clear statement about their own potential for success in Gniezno.
The action continues on Wednesday 29th August, with the day’s play starting with a mouth-watering encounter between opening day winners Ukraine and Italy at 15:00 Central European Time. That contest will by followed by Cyprus facing Czech Republic at 17:00 before Lithuania play Poland in the final match of the day at 19:00.
The event in Poland takes place from 28 August until 2 September and pits some of Europe’s up-and-coming nations against each other as the journey towards possible qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games begins. The top two placed teams from Gniezno will qualify for one of three FIH Series Finals events, which will be played in 2019. Each of these FIH Series Finals events will consist of eight teams and will take place throughout the world, with berths into the Olympic Qualification Events up for grabs.
For detailed information about the FIH Series Finals and Olympic Qualification, visit the Q&A page on the FIH website here.
You can follow all the latest news about the Hockey Series via FIH.ch and through FIH Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.