The FIH Nations Cup ushers a new dawn of promotion and relegation, with the winning team having the chance to be promoted to the 2023-24 Hockey Pro League, provided they meet the necessary requirements for it.
The Men’s Nations Cup is first on the agenda and runs from Nov 28 to Dec 4, in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The hosts play in Pool A with France, Ireland and Pakistan; while Canada joins the Asian triumvirate of Korea, Japan and Malaysia in Pool B. The top two in each group move forwards to the semi-finals
The opening match will see two Asian powerhouses go head-to-head as Malaysia take on Korea on Monday at the North-West University of Potchefstroom to start the new era of international hockey and breaks the ‘elite’ tag holding sway over the top tier Pro League.
The winning teams from the men’s and women’s event will be promoted to the FIH Pro League for the next edition in 2023, where they will replace the teams that finish last.
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 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 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 Both narrowly missed out on World Cup qualification, while the latter has seemingly overcome funding issues by late sponsorship to travel to the event.
Canada joins the Asian triumvirate of Japan, Korea and Malaysia 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 eighth place, with their best performance coming in the 7/8 place classification against Pakistan which they narrowly lost 4-3.
Japan, Korea and Malaysia will head to the Nations Cup right after the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and currently occupy the top three spots in the league table ahead of Pakistan, Egypt and South Africa. All three teams have also qualified for the World Cup in January.
Women’s Nations Cup schedule
The Women’s Nations Cup will run from Dec 11 to 17 in Valencia, Spain. The hosts will play in Pool A with Korea, Ireland and Italy; while India, Japan, Canada and South Africa compete in Pool B.
The opening match will be played between India and Canada; two teams who are very familiar with each other having faced off in the Women’s World Cup Spain and Netherlands 2022 as well as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, within the past two months.