MINSK, May 08. /ITAR-TASS/. National flags of 16 participating countries in the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship have been raised in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, which hosts the global sport event on May 9-25.
The flag-raising ceremony was held at the State Flag Square, which opened in downtown Minsk last July, and was attended by President of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Rene Fasel, President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation Vladislav Tretyak, as well as by heads of international sports delegations.
The competitions, which kick off on Friday, will be held at the Minsk Arena (15,000-seat capacity, opened in 2010) and the Chizhovka Arena (9,600-seat capacity, opened in 2013).
A total of 16 teams have been divided in two groups for the preliminary round of the competition.
Group A comprises reigning World Champions Sweden, the Czech Republic, Canada, Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, France and Italy. Group B puts together Finland, Russia, the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Latvia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Teams finishing the preliminary round in the top four places in each group advance to the quarterfinals, which will be played in the cross-over way. The 1st place team in each preliminary round group plays the 4th place team of the other group, while the 2nd place team plays the 3rd place team of the other group (1A-4B, 2A-3B, 1B-4A, 2B-3A). Winners of this knock-out round advance to the semifinals.
Both semifinals are scheduled for May 24 and the gold-medal match will be held the following day starting at 9:00 p.m. local time (18:00 GMT) at the Minsk Arena.
The championship’s opening games on Friday are Russia vs. Switzerland at the Minsk Arena and France vs. Canada at the Chizhovka Arena. Later in the day hosts Belarus will take on the United States and the Czech Republic will face off Slovakia.
Russian fans expect their national squad to put on a new game following the team’s disappointing performance at the last year’s World Championship, when it was knocked out from the quarterfinals after being creamed 3-8 by the United States, and another disappointing performance at this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The Russian squad failed once more to clear the quarterfinals stage losing on its home soil 1-3 to Finland.
Russia’s most recent titles of world champions were conquered in 2008, 2009 and 2012. The 2008 title was a real treat for Russian hockey fans as it came to the team after a 15-year draught. That title Russia snatched from Canada, which was hosting the World Championship for the first time in its history, with 5-4 victory in overtime.