KUANTAN: Malaysia hosted the first Champions Challenge I tournament in 2001. So, it is only fitting that the country is given the honour of hosting the last of the series.
The tournament in Kuantan will be the eighth and last men’s Champions Challenge I competition following the introduction of the Hockey World League.
The biennial Champions Challenge I provides the winners with a route to the prestigious Champions Trophy. As such, the winners here will play in the 2016 Champions Trophy.
Since 2009, the competition involves eight men’s teams from around the globe. Those who competed in the first-ever Champions Challenge I included India, South Africa, Argentina, Malaysia, Japan and Belgium.
Argentina are the most decorated team in Champions Challenge I history, taking three titles in four appearances (2001, 2005, 2007 and 2012). South Korea, who have yet to win, have emerged as runners-up in each of their three previous appearances (2003, 2005 and 2012).
The other teams who have won the tournament are India, Spain, New Zealand and Belgium.
The tournament in Kuantan will feature two top-10 teams – New Zealand and South Korea. They will be challenged by Malaysia, Japan, Ireland, Canada, France and Poland.
New Zealand have won only once in three appearances in the Champions Challenge I, defeating Pakistan for the gold medal in 2009.
This year, France will be making their first appearance in the series.
New Zealand are the favourites in Group A, which also has Japan, Ireland and Poland. Group B features South Korea, Malaysia, Canada and France.