Abu Dhabi: Hosts the UAE will face favourites Greece in their opening match in the qualifiers for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships Division III at Abu Dhabi Ice Rink at Zayed Sports City on Sunday night (7pm).
Georgia and Mongolia, who meet in the first match at 4pm on Sunday, are the other teams competing here, with two spots at the finals in South Africa next year up for grabs.
“We are ready for the qualifiers to reach the next World Cup finals.” Juma Al Daheri, the Secretary General of the UAE Ice Hockey Association and captain of the team, said on Saturday in a press conference at the rink.
“We are happy to host the qualifiers and to welcome all the participants.”
The UAE were the first, and so far only, Arab country to take part in the finals of the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2010 in Luxembourg, when they finished fourth out of six finalists.
“We know Greece are a good team. We lost to them 7-2 in the finals of 2010 and we also know Mongolia very well as we defeated them many times in the Asian championships. But we have no idea about Georgia, although we expect them to be a good team as a part of the former Union of Soviet Republics,” Al Daheri added.
“We have a good chance as two of the four teams will win promotion to the finals to play against North Korea, South Africa, Luxembourg and Ireland.
“The challenge is tough but the UAE national team have always been winners and are the proud champions of the Gulf Cup and Asian Championship. With the great improvement that has occurred to the game recently we are optimistic to play in the finals of the World Cup for the second time in our history.”
Ali Al Hosani, Media Director for the UAE Ice Hockey Association, said: “The qualifiers are a new theatre for our national team to excel. Reaching the finals of the World Cup will be the best addition to winning the Asian Championship and the Gulf Cup.”