Scotland vying for promotion in Lille as Champions Challenge II gets underway this weekend
28 June 2011
Scotland Men will be hoping to emulate their female counterparts' success in a world tournament when they travel to Lille, France for the FIH Champions Challenge II (2nd-10th July), where the eight participating teams will be competing for promotion to the Champions Challenge I in 2013.
Head Coach Russell Garcia can name an almost full strength squad for the forthcoming six matches, with the exception of Great Britain stars Stephen Dick and Niall Stott, who will compete for GB instead at the FIH Champions Trophy later this year, and under FIH rules, both players would become ineligible for GB in this competition if they represented the Scots in the Champions Challenge II. Inverleith's John Harris and Ross Stott of Bowdon HC also come back into the squad following the recent Celtic Cup campaign, in which the side finished second.
Olympian Graham Moodie will captain the side, whilst Mark Fulton, Michael Bremner, Michael Christie, Willie Marshall, Gareth Hall, Iain Scholefield and Alan Forsyth represent a strong contingent from Scottish champions Glynhill Hotel Kelburne. There will also be a milestone occasion for Grove Menzieshill's Gavin Byers, as he is set to claim his 50th international cap during the competition.
"Participating in the Champions Challenge II continues our preparations for a vital European tournament next month and whilst we are in Lille to compete at this tournament to the best of our abilities, increasing the level of performance rather than results is the most important thing we have in mind", said Garcia.
Scotland, currently sitting 23rd in the FIH world rankings, will play against hosts France (ranked 17th), Ireland (ranked 18th) and Russia (ranked 22nd) in Pool B of the competition. France and Ireland are familiar foes, with the national side having met them in the aforementioned Celtic Cup competition in Cardiff earlier this. The Scots lost narrowly to eventual winners Ireland 2-1, but defeated France 6-4, so will be confident of matching both teams.
Meanwhile, the other four teams contesting Pool A are Austria (ranked 21st), China (ranked 14th), Czech Republic (ranked 24th), and USA (ranked 20th). With China being the highest ranked team, and having dropped down from the FIH Champions Challenge I in 2009, they will be considered favourites to win promotion from the second tier, but Ireland and hosts France will fancy their chances after silver and bronze medals at the previous event two years ago.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has introduced an additional quarter-final stage at this year's tournament; the implication being that all teams have the opportunity to advance to the semi-finals irrespective of their performance in the pool stages and subsequent ranking in their pool. The winners of the quarter finals will then move onto the semi-finals and medal games, while the losers will continue to play for final placement in the 5th-8th places.
Further information about the FIH Champions Challenge II can be found on the FIH website.
Scotland Men: Phil Carr (Loughborough), Mark Fulton, Michael Bremner, Michael Christie, Willie Marshall, Gareth Hall, Iain Scholefield, Alan Forsyth (Glynhill Hotel Kelburne), Dan Coultas (Durham HC), Fergus Dunn (FC Barcelona), Russell Anderson (Brooklands), Graham Moodie (Edinburgh University), Kenny Bain (HDM), Wei Adams (AMN Hillhead), Ross Stott (Bowden HC), Chris Grassick (Surbition), John Harris (Inverleith), Gavin Byers (Grove Menzieshill).