The Hockey World League (HWL) semifinal is an Olympic qualification tournament, where the teams finishing top 3 get a place in the Olympics. The Indian women’s team came into the tournament hoping to seal a spot for Rio, but things didn’t go as planned as India lost their quarterfinal tie to Netherlands. By failing to make the semifinals in the tournament, they will be competing for the 5th – 8th spots.
However, all is not lost for the Indian women’s team as they can still qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016. They will need help from a lot of areas and will themselves have to finish 5th in the ongoing HWL semifinal.
Let us take a look at how India can still fulfil its dream of being a part of the Rio Olympics:
How the teams can qualify for the Olympics
The Olympics is a 12-team tournament and the slots are filled in the following manner:
5 Regional Champions – Winners of the Oceania Championship, African Championship, European Championship, Pan American Championship and the Asian Games.
6 HWL spots – The top 3 finishing teams in the two HWL semis – Belgium and Spain
1 host (Brazil) – Brazil are ranked 49th in the world and the rules state that the host nation has to be ranked 40 or better to take part. If not, they can qualify for the Olympics if they finish in the top 7 of the Pan American Championships. However, Brazil failed to qualify for the Pan American Games and hence, will NOT be taking part in Rio.
A few slots have already been taken by the following teams:
Asian Games 2014 winner – South Korea
Hockey World League semis:
Event 1: HWL semis, Spain (concluded): Top 3 teams – Great Britain, China, Germany
Event 2: HWL semis, Belgium (ongoing): Top 4 teams (With top 3 qualifying for Olympics): Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Netherlands
How the slots can shift in India’s favour
- If the Continental Champion has already qualified by achieving a top-3 finish from either of the semifinals, then the next highest placed team (the team finishing 4th) from SF1 (Valencia leg) and SF2 (Antwerp leg) qualifies for Rio. In cases where teams are equally placed, the FIH ranking at the end of SF2 will determine which team qualifies.
- South Korea qualified for the Olympics by winning the 2014 Asian Games – the Asian Continental Champions. If Korea are to finish in the top 3 at Antwerp, then one slot will be free. This will go to the highest-ranked fourth-placed teams in either of the two semifinals (SF1 – Valencia or SF2 – Antwerp), who will qualify for the Olympics. Argentina finished fourth in Valencia, Spain.
- If the 4th placed finishers are taken into consideration, then Argentina (from Valencia in SF1) and the 4th ranked team in the Belgium leg (to be decided) will go through to the Olympics.
- If the 5th placed finishers are taken into consideration for the last two spots in the qualification table, then USA, who finished 5th in the Spain event, will go through on the basis of their higher world ranking than India, provided the women from the subcontinent finish 5th.
- Spain finished 6th in the SF1 at Valencia and India are ranked higher than Spain, so even if India finishes 6th, they will get a slot for the Olympics if four slots open up.
Great Britain, China, Germany and South Korea have already qualified for the Olympics and three out of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the Netherlands will qualify. So for India to get a slot, they need at least three of these teams to win their respective Continental Championships.
India has to finish 5th or 6th to have a chance of going through to the Rio Olympics. For India to qualify, they need these results to go in their favour:
- Australia or New Zealand win the Oceania Championship – Since the start of the tournament (1999), one out of these two have won it.
- Great Britain, Netherlands and Germany win the European Championship – These three are the only teams to have won the tournament.
- Argentina or USA to win the Pan American Championship – The American women are the defending champions and prior to that, Argentina had won it six times on the trot.
So there is a really good chance that the results will go in India’s favour, if we look at the historic results.
India faces a tough road to finish 5th
The Ritu Rani led Indian team beat Italy in their 5th-8th position qualifier on 3rd July. In the other 5th-8th place match, Japan got the better of hosts Belgium to set up a crucial encounter with India.
Japan have been beaten the last two times they have faced India, with the most recent win coming at the Hawke's Bay Cup earlier this year and the previous one in the bronze medal play-off at the Incheon Asian Games.
So Mathias Ahrens’ Indian team needs to first look at its own results and finish 5th or 6th before hoping other results go their way.