New Delhi: The FIH Hockey World League has reached its penultimate stop - the semi-finals. But calling these semi-finals bigger than the finals won't be wrong. Finishing among the top three here guarantees a place in the World Cup 2014 to be held next year at The Hague, Netherlands. So in one word, it's big.
Sixteen teams will play the two semi-finals, each of which will be an eight-team competition. The top three teams from each of the two events - at Rotterdam, Netherlands from June 13 to 23 and at Johor Bahru, Malaysia from June 29 to July 7 - will make it to the World Cup.
Indian men's team will be part of the first semi-final to be held at Rotterdam. The squad, in fact, is already in Netherlands awaiting their first match against Ireland on June 13, before they play the hosts and New Zealand in Pool B. Australia, Belgium, France and Spain make up Pool A.
Argentina, Germany, Japan, Korea, England, Malaysia, Pakistan and South Africa will fight it out in the other semi-final at Johor Bahru.
Besides the six automatic places up for grabs at these two events, a lucky loser will also get through to play the World Cup. In a nutshell, this is how the qualification process works:
12 teams play the World Cup:
- Hosts (Netherlands)
- Five Continental champions
- Top six finishers from the two Hockey World League semi-finals (three teams from each event - two finalists and the winner of the third-fourth place playoff). But the number of teams progressing from these semi-finals will become seven if Netherlands, who automatically qualify for the World Cup as hosts, finish as one of the top three teams. It will vacant a space that will go to the highest-ranked fourth-placed team from the two semi-finals. FIH rankings taken into account for that will be the ones applicable at the time of completion of the second semi-final.
The same World Cup qualification criterion applies during the women's Hockey World League semi-finals, which will be played at Rotterdam (June 13 to 22) and at London (June 22 to 30). China, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, India and New Zealand will be part of the semi-final at Rotterdam. China, Italy, Argentina, USA, Australia, Spain, England and South Africa will be the eight teams competing at London.