Latest world ranking list narrows range of possible Olympic qualifier options

The Irish women look all but assured of a home draw for the Olympic qualifiers later this year while the men are likely to be on the road following the release of the latest world ranking list over the weekend.

For the Green Army, their recent second place finish at the FIH Series in Banbridge saw them stay in eighth place in the world and also guaranteed them a place in the Olympic qualifiers process.

The Irish women walk-out at Banbridge. Pic: Adrian Boehm

That looks set to be against one of China, Korea, USA and Chile at this stage based on an open draw following the release of the final rankings in early September following the completion of the continental championships.

Ireland’s performance at Bann saw them qualify alongside winners Korea. From the FIH Series, Spain and Canada (from their tournament in Valencia) and India (from Hiroshima) also earned a qualifier place.

The Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Argentina earned a ticket for the qualifiers via the Pro League.

They will form part of 14 teams involved in those playoffs and will be divided into seven pairs, each playing a two-legged match at one venue with the aggregate score deciding the winner.

The remainder of the places will be filled by the next best placed sides in the world rankings.

However, any of those side can forego the qualifiers should they win their continental championships in the next few months and earn a direct ticket to Tokyo 2020.

Should they be the same as one of the sides confirmed for the Olympic qualifiers, they will be replaced by the next best placed side on the world rankings. Japan have already qualified as both hosts and Asian champions.

When it comes to the draw for the qualifiers, the seven match-ups will be semi-seeded; the top seven sides on world ranking will be assured of home advantage.

This will be further divided with the top three ranked home sides going into a pot to face the bottom three ranked sides of sides with an away draw.

The next four home seeds – the bracket Ireland currently fall into – will be drawn against one of the remaining four away seeded sides mentioned above.

This could change under a couple of circumstances. First, an Ireland win at the Euros to go straight to Tokyo 2020. Should Ireland reach the Euro final and Germany endure a blow-out and suffer relegation, there is a chance of jumping into the top bracket.

In terms of opponents, should USA win the Pan-Am championship, bringing India onto the list of potential opponents.

Ireland’s men ahead of their recent tie with USA. Pic: Adrian Boehm

As for the men, the process follows a similar format. Ireland earned their ticket for the qualifiers with their second place finish in Le Touquet along with France and remain in 11th place in the world rankings.

India and South Africa won through from Bhubaneswar while Canada and Malaysia went through from Kuala Lumpur. From the Pro League, Australia, Belgium, Great Britain and the Netherlands have a qualifier ticket already assured.

In the current position, Ireland are first on the list of top four away ranked sides which would mean, as it stands, an away date with Germany/Great Britain, Spain, Canada or New Zealand.

However, should any of these sides win their continental championships, that could bring India or Argentina into the mix.

To earn a home draw, Ireland would need a run to the European final to overtake Canada in 10th place or, alternatively, USA to beat Canada out of the top two in Pan-America.

As an addendum, with the Green Machine one place outside the home draws, there is considerable frustration that New Zealand remain in eighth place in the world rankings and out of range.

They failed to win any of their matches in the invitational Pro League but still earned 100 more ranking points for their efforts. With no other entries to the Oceania Cup in September other than Australia, they will be given a home draw for the Olympic qualifiers without potentially winning a ranking game of any description.

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