Champs Challenge opponents named for Irish

Paul Revington and Gene Muller have found out the opposition for their last major warm-up tournaments ahead of the 2011 European Championships – the first chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games – following the announcement of the competitors for the various FIH Champions’ series of games.

The Irish men are off to Lille to play in the FIH Champions Challenge II from July 3 to 9, 2011 where they will take on the likes of Austria, China, Czech Republic, Russia, Scotland, USA and host nation France.

As runners-up in the equivalent event in 2009 and the third highest world-ranked side, Ireland go into the competition as one of the favourites.

China, though, are top seeds at 14th and have an impressive record over the boys in green with just one defeat in five times, winning out 5-0 the last time the countries met in 2008 in Adelaide.

France are the second seeds, though Revington will be confident of a result should they meet as his charges are unbeaten in the past six outings. Ireland come in third on the list.

The women, meanwhile, are the host nation for the FIH Champions Challenge I which will be played in Dublin between June 18 and 26.

They face potential European rivals in Azerbaijan and Spain – both of whom will play in the European A division later in 2011 – as well as Scotland, India, Japan, South Africa and the United States.

Ireland, at 15th, will be the second lowest world-ranked side in the competition, recent nemesis Scotland at 21 the side below them, and are set to face a gruelling test against sides directly above them in the listings.

The tournament, though, represents a good opportunity to boost their world ranking as they have effectively been promoted a level after a third place finish in the Challenge II in Kazan two years ago.

That finish earned 100 ranking points, a total which is bettered by the base level of points earned at this level just for entering, while any performance above their pre-tournament ranking will provide a significant boost to their status.

The main focus, though, for the tournaments is likely to be fine-tuning ahead of the Europeans in Monchengladbach, Germany which will be played in August 20 to 28, 2011.

Meanwhile, the Men’s FIH Champions Trophy features outright qualifiers Australia, England, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and host nation India, with two additional teams being invited to take part in the exciting new eight-team event that will take place on dates to be confirmed in November / December 2011.

The invitational places – which were approved by the FIH Executive Board – have been handed to Korea, who are currently ranked sixth in the ABN AMRO World Rankings, and to 8thranked Pakistan, who recently made a notable return to form by winning Gold at the 2010 Asian Games, thereby ensuring their right to participate London 2012 Olympics.

The Women’s FIH Champions Trophy will also include eight teams, with China and New Zealand joining Argentina, Germany, England, Australia, Korea and The Netherlands, who are the hosts of the tournament.

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