If ever people doubted the legitimacy of World Hockey’s newest international tournament the Hockey World League they only had to see the game between Argentina and Germany at the Semi Finals in Buenos Aires two nights ago.
Argentina came out on top in a closely fought physical battle, drag flicker Gonzalo Peillat re-finding the form that saw him top score at the World Cup last year and scoring two from penalty corners.
Germany were far from happy and felt that decisions had gone against them. Their coach Markus Weise was quick to remind the players post match that Olympic qualification is on the line at this tournament.
The top three teams in this semi final tournament and those in the top three in the tournament in Antwerp automatically qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio. Early qualification takes the pressure of those teams who still have to contest their Confederations Championship for another chance to qualify for Rio 2016.
As a team in the top three could end up winning their confederation’s qualifier as well then the fourth placed teams at the World League will be given a berth at the Olympic Games.
It is not an ideal situation to determine who will contest the battle for Olympic Gold, however with the International Olympic Committee insisting that there must be two methods of qualification the International Hockey Federation have come up with what they believe is the fairest format. Interestingly football is exempt from the two methods of qualification, will that change once the new guard take over at FIFA?
The format is not perfect as it means that the quarter finals become the most contested games in the Hockey World League semi finals, and that was why Germany were so upset. Germany are unlikely to finish top of their Pool now are likely to face a tough competitor in the quarter finals, South Korea.
The Asian team has qualified for every Olympic Games since 1996, but missed the chance to qualify when they hosted the Asian Games last year, when they only picked up bronze. India winning gold and a ticket to Rio.
Germany, the defending Olympic Gold medallists will know how hard a side South Korea are t beat, they will also know how much this game will mean to the Koreans.
In another quirk of this competition, should South Korea defeat Germany and find themselves in the semi finals but lose that game, they could miss out on Olympic qualification. They would however qualify for the Hockey World League finals. Which opens the door to the fact that a team that has not qualified for the Olympic Games could end up winning the World League finals.
Although in truth it is most likely that all of the semi finalists will ultimately qualify for the Olympic Games.
It may not be the perfect way to qualify but it sure makes it interesting, and every team at the World League is determined to grab that Olympic place at the semi finals. The next few days in Buenos Aires are bound to be interesting, and then there is still the semi finals in Antwerp to come!