HOCKEY: The Hockeyroos and Kookaburras will both qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games via the Hockey World League this week, irrespective of whether they finish in the top three or in fourth place.
Olympic qualification is guaranteed for the top three finishers but not for teams finishing fourth.
The International Hockey Federation will only confirm all the teams qualifying for the Olympic Games at the conclusion of the tournament. However, results over the past 48 hours have conspired to create scenarios whereby even if Australia's teams finish fourth they will still secure Olympic qualification.
The Kookaburras, the Australian men's hockey team, will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games irrespective of where they finish in the top four of the Hockey World League (HWL) this week after they reached the semi-finals and India overcame Malaysia 3-2.
The Kookaburras will face Great Britain in the semi-final in Antwerp on Friday after both teams came through their quarter-final encounters on Wednesday.
India's result guarantees the three other semi-finalists - Australia, Belgium and Great Britain - will all qualify for Rio.
As they have already qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by virtue of winning the 2014 Asian Games, a top three finish for India in Antwerp will create an Olympic opening for the highest ranked of the fourth place finishers from two HWL Semi-Final events held in Buenos Aires and Antwerp.
Continental championship winners such as India, who also qualify through the World League, ‘hand back' their World League qualification place with it rolled down to the next best non-qualifier, the best fourth placed team from the two World League competitions.
As Australia, Belgium and Great Britain are all ranked higher than Canada, who finished fourth in Buenos Aires, that place would go to whichever of those teams were to finish fourth in Antwerp.
If India finishes fourth, then only the top three from each competition will be confirmed for the Olympic Games at this stage. In Antwerp, that would mean Australia, Belgium and Great Britain secure the three automatic qualification places.
All four semi-finalists have also qualified for the World League Finals in India at the end of the year, to be joined by Germany, the Netherlands, Argentina and Canada.
In Wednesday's quarter finals, the Kookaburras overcame Ireland 4-1 on Antwerp's hottest day for more than 60 years while Great Britain saw off Pakistan, winning 2-1.
The other semi-final will pit India against Belgium after the hosts overcame France 5-4.
Australia and Great Britain met as recently as the middle of June in two World League warm-up matches. While Great Britain won the first contest 3-1 in London, the Kookaburras fought back in the second to win 6-1 at Bisham Abbey two days later.
By virtue of the same process, the Hockeyroos will also qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games this week, even if they finish in fourth place and miss out on one of the guaranteed Olympic spots given to the top three finishers.
With 2014 women's Asian Games champions Korea in the semi-finals and already qualified for the Olympic Games, the same scenario applies to Australia's women as to the Kookaburras.
Should the Hockeyroos finish in the top three, they will automatically qualify for Rio.
Should they finish fourth they will inherit the qualification spot won by Korea, who would take up their Olympic place as Asian champions and have their World League qualification place ‘rolled down' to the next highest ranked non-qualifier from the HWL Semi-Final tournaments in Antwerp and Valencia.
As the number two team in the FIH world rankings, the Hockeyroos would be the highest ranked non-qualifier, ahead of Argentina who finished fourth in Valencia and are ranked third in the world.
In Thursday's semi-finals, Australia's women will face the world number one, the Netherlands (02:00am AEST, Friday).
The Dutch are the reigning Olympic champions, World Cup gold medallists and defending World League winners. The Hockeyroos – Commonwealth Games gold medallists - were runners-up to the Dutch at the 2014 World Cup and the 2013 World League Final.
Their last two encounters came a year ago at the 2014 World Cup when the Netherlands won both matches – a pool phase meeting and the grand final – 2-0.
Statistics ahead of semi-finals
Hockeyroos' results so far:
9-0 win v Poland (Pool B)
2-0 win v Belgium (Pool B)
0-2 loss v New Zealand (Pool B)
4-2 win v India (Pool B)
2-0 win v Italy (QF) Netherlands results so far:
11-0 win v France (Pool A)
2-1 win v Korea (Pool A)
4-0 win v Japan (Pool A)
9-0 win v Italy (Pool A)
7-0 win v India (QF)
Kookaburras' results so far:
10-0 win v France (Pool A)
6-1 win v Pakistan (Pool A)
4-0 win v Poland (Pool A)
6-2 win v India (Pool A)
4-1 win v Ireland (QF) Great Britain's results so far:
2-2 draw v Belgium (Pool B)
2-2 draw v Ireland (Pool B)
8-1 win v China (Pool B)
3-1 win v Malaysia (Pool B)
2-1 win v Pakistan (QF)
Women's semi-final and classification match draw
Matches take place on Thursday 2 July (Belgian time)
5th-8th: 13:00 CEST / 21:00 AEST - India v Italy
5th-8th: 15:30 CEST / 23:30 AEST - Belgium v Japan
Semi 1: 18:00 CEST / 02:00 AEST (Fri) - Netherlands v Australia
Semi 2: 20:30 CEST / 04:30 AEST (Fri) - Korea v New Zealand
Men's semi-final and classification match draw
Matches take place on Friday 3 July (Belgian time)
The match scheduling and times will be confirmed by the FIH at 11:00 (CEST) on Thursday 2nd July.