April 24, 2014 (ISN) – Eight teams are currently preparing for the Men’s Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Malaysian city Kuantan this week where they will do battle to claim the one 2016 Champions Trophy qualification spot up for grabs.
The tournament is due to get underway with a match between New Zealand, who secured silver at the Hockey World League Final in New Delhi this January, and Ireland on Saturday (April 26).
The Black Sticks are one of three teams in Kuantan that will compete at the Hockey World Cup in The Hague from May 31 to June 15.
The other teams, South Korea and hosts Malaysia, feature in Pool A alongside 2013 Asian Champions Trophy runners up Japan and 2011 world indoor silver medallists Poland, as well as Ireland.
Although his team are the favourites going into the Champions Challenge 1, New Zealand coach Colin Batch has not yet written off any of their competitors.
“We play Ireland first which will be an extremely difficult game,” he said.
“They’ve shown they can provide shocks so that’s a tough game first up.
“Also Japan, who we have played three times recently, are in our pool along with Poland who are a bit of a surprise package.”
Pool B features Asian champions South Korea, who have been the runners-up in each of their three previous Champions Challenge 1 appearances in 2003, 2005 and 2012, hosts and runners up at this year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Malaysia, Canada and France, who are making their Champions Challenge 1 debut.
The tournament is due to conclude on May 4.
Introductory Photo: Getty Images