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Lottery of Olympic hockey qualification

Members of the Team GB Olympic hockey team on stage at Trafalgar Square during the Olympic and Paralympic athletes heroes’ return in London.

Working out autumn’s Olympic play-off matches is anyone’s guess – until rubber-stamped in September

Twenty-four nations – 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams – will battle it out at Tokyo 2020 to follow in the footsteps of the 2016 gold medalists: Argentina (men) and Great Britain (women).

Japan’s men’s and women’s teams have already qualified as hosts while the qualification process is still ongoing to see who will join them.

– All four winners of the remaining continental championships, which will be staged in Pan America, Africa, Europe and Oceania between July and September this year, will secure a direct berth to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

– The remaining seven places will be decided by the FIH Hockey Olympic qualifiers scheduled to take place at the end of October and early November. These events consist of teams that qualified via the FIH Pro League and the FIH Series Finals, with the line-up being completed by the highest ranked teams who did not qualify via either route.

The seven highest-placed nations after the continentals, who are not champions of their respective continental titles, will host the Olympic play-offs.

Australia, Argentina and South Africa will likely be crowned Oceania, Pan American and African champions from the continental championships.

Regarding Europe, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany or England will be seen as favourites across men and women.

That leaves several top nations to face the play-off, if we take world champions Belgium as automatic qualifiers in the men’s competition.

So it will likely see the Netherlands, GB, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, Pakistan, China, Korea and perhaps Egypt will take part in the autumn play-offs, which will see the top-ranked in the world rankings come September take on the bottom-ranked at home, then second-ranked against second-lowest and so on. France, Malaysia, Canada and India have qualified via the FIH Series Finals.

It means that bottle necked middle-ranked teams could be in for a very tricky, two-legged affair. Ireland against Canada, anyone?

In the women’s race for Tokyo 2020, Netherlands, Australia, Argentina and South Africa will be favourites to progress from the continental championships.

That leaves GB women, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, Ireland, Belgium in the mix for hosting home play-offs, with Korea, India, Canada and Spain also having qualified courtesy of the FIH Series Finals.

Never has a world ranking leap felt more important this summer. But it won’t be until the end of the Oceanic Championships in September will we know the full schedule.

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