The very first edition of the FIH Hockey Nations Cup is almost upon us. The event will begin with the men’s tournament, which will run from 28 November to 4 December in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The women’s tournament will kick off from 11 December and runs till 17 December in Valencia, Spain. With highly ranked nations competing, not just for the inaugural title, but also a chance of promotion to the FIH Hockey Pro League, the Nations Cup promises to start off its first season with a bang!
The FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup will be played in Potchefstroom, South Africa which also hosted the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup – the first FIH Hockey World Cup played on African soil – and FIH Hockey Pro League matches earlier in the year.
The FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup will be played in Valencia, Spain in the Estadio Betero, which has hosted men’s FIH Hockey Pro League matches over the past three years, amongst others.
The FIH Hockey Nations Cups will be contested between 8 teams in each event. The teams have been split into two Pools of 4. Each team will face the other 3 teams in their Pool in the group stage. At the end of the group stage, all 4 teams will be classified from 1-4 with the top two teams from each pool making it to the semi-finals, and the bottom 2 teams then going forward for the 5-8 classification.
The teams finishing in the 3rd place in their Pool will play the 4th placed team in the other Pool. The winning team from these contests will play for the 5th position and the losing teams will play for the 7th position.
The teams finishing in the first place in their respective Pools will play the second placed teams in the other pool, in the semi-finals. The winners will then go on to play the finals, while the losing semi-finalists will play for the 3rd position.
The winning teams from the FIH Hockey Nations Cup, men’s and women’s, will be promoted to the FIH Hockey Pro League for the 2023-24 season, where they will replace the teams that finish last in the 2022-23 season of the FIH Hockey Pro League.
Hosts South Africa are joined by France, Ireland and Pakistan to make up Pool A, that promises to deliver high-octane attacking hockey.
South Africa replaced New Zealand in the FIH Hockey Pro League last season, and while they finished in the bottom place, their team took major steps forward and it showed as they made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
France was the other team to play in the FIH Hockey Pro League in the previous edition, replacing Australia, and produced great hockey, registering impressive wins against India, Argentina and South Africa through the course of the tournament. South Africa and France will also be in action in the FIH Hockey Odisha Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, so they will be highly motivated to put their best foot forward at the Nations Cup, in build-up to the event.
On the flip side, Ireland and Pakistan will have their eyes firmly set on the promotion to the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023-24, by winning the Nations Cup. Both Ireland and Pakistan narrowly missed out on World Cup qualification and will be hungry to use the Nations Cup as the platform to re-launch their ascent in hockey world rankings.
Canada joins the Asian triumvirate of Japan, Korea and Malaysia in Pool B that promises to deliver a variety of tactical battles in every game.
Canada have been in a transitional phase as a younger generation aims to burst through and make a name for itself in world hockey. Their performances in the Commonwealth Games were never lacking in passion and intensity, as they finished in the 8th place, with their best performance coming in the 7/8 place classification match against Pakistan which they narrowly lost by a score-line of 3-4.
Japan, Korea and Malaysia will head to the Nations Cup right after the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup where they have put in some excellent performances. All three teams have also qualified for the World Cup in January 2023 and will aim to continue building momentum through the Nations Cup.
Hosts Spain will be joined by Korea, Ireland and Italy in Pool A of the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup.
Spain have been on the rise with their young rising stars blending well with the established veterans on the team. They are one of the two teams playing in the Nations Cup after having played in the FIH Hockey Pro League in the previous season, where they had an impressive 5th placed finish, ahead of Germany, England, China and USA. Spain also excelled in the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup Spain & Netherlands 2022, making it to the quarterfinals, and finishing 7th.
Ireland and Korea endured disappointing World Cup campaigns by their usual standards, finishing 11th and 13th respectively. The disappointments at the World Cup will provide plenty motivation for Ireland and Korea to try and win the Nations Cup and get promoted into the FIH Hockey Pro League in the next season.
Italy has been a team on the rise over the past year with impressive performances on the continental level. The Nations Cup will provide a big opportunity for them to take their game up a level onto the international stage, and their opponents would do well to not underestimate them!
Pool B is an intriguing mixture of teams who are all on an upward trajectory with Chile and South Africa being joined by Asian giants India and Japan.
All 4 teams were involved in the World Cup earlier this year but had varying fortunes as India, Japan, Chile and South Africa finished in the 9th, 11th, 13th and 15th place respectively.
India, coming to the World Cup on the back of an impressive FIH Hockey Pro League campaign, had hoped for a better finish than 9th, but put the disappointment behind them and responded almost instantly, by winning the bronze medal at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
South Africa and Japan also had set higher targets for the World Cup, and will use the motivation from their campaigns to try and win the inaugural FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup, and get promoted into the FIH Hockey Pro League in the 2023-24 season.
Chile, who finished 13th at the World Cup in their debut campaign, were a team that thrilled the fans, with great performances throughout, including a win over reigning silver medalists Ireland, and another one over South Africa. They followed that up with a gold medal at the recently concluded XII South American Games Asunción 2022, defeating Argentina in the finals.
With 4 competitive teams, all eager to prove their supremacy, Pool B promises to provide spectacular fireworks in every contest!
All matches will be available on the Watch.Hockey app.