Poland began their home event with a big win ©FIH

The host nation got off to a flying start at the International Hockey Federation Hockey Series in Gniezno, Poland, which features six men's teams contending for two places in the Hockey Series Finals and a chance of reaching the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Poland, world-ranked 21, beat Cyprus, who are currently ranked 60th in the world, 17-0, with Mikolaj Gumny and Mateusz Hubloj getting hat-tricks as a total of 10 players got on the scoresheet.

If that was predictable, there was a surprise in the opening match as the Czech Republic, world ranked 28, were beaten 4-3 by the side nine places below them in the rankings, Italy.

The Italians stunned the Czechs by scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes, with team captain Agustin Nunez netting a penalty corner before Pietro Lago's field goal doubled the advantage.

Strikes either side of the quarter-time break from Tomas Prochazka and Jan Zelezny pulled the Czechs level, but Italy re-established their two goal advantage in the third quarter as Lago and Luca da Gai found the target.

Adam Uhlir reduced the deficit with three minutes of the match remaining to set up a dramatic finale, but it was the Italians who went away with all three points to make a clear statement about their own potential for success in Gniezno.

In the day’s other game, Ukraine, world-ranked 25, earned an 11-1 win over 48th-ranked Lithuania, with Oleh Polishchuk scoring a hat-trick for a side aiming to emulate the success of their female compatriots, who booked their place in the Hockey Series Finals with a first place finish in Vilnius at the weekend.

The Hockey Series offers a path to Tokyo 2020 ©FIH
The Hockey Series offers a path to Tokyo 2020 ©FIH

Ukraine ended the day sitting second in the table level on points with Poland but with an inferior goal difference.

The action continues tomorrow, starting with a meeting between Ukraine and Italy, after which Cyprus face the Czech Republic and then Lithuania play Poland.

The event in Poland, which will run until September 2, pits some of Europe’s up-and-coming nations against each other as the journey towards possible qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games begins.

The top two placed teams from Gniezno will qualify for one of three Hockey Series Finals events, which will be played in 2019.

Each of the Hockey Series Finals events will consist of eight teams and will take place throughout the world, with berths into the Olympic qualification events on offer.