Bhubaneswar: The Indian Men’s and Women’s Hockey Teams will look to book their spots at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 when they take part in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha on 1st and 2nd November 2019 here at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium. World No. 5 Indian Men’s Hockey Team are scheduled to play World No. 22 Russia, while the World No. 9 Indian Women’s Hockey Team will face tough competition from World No. 13 USA in the two-legged tie.
The winners of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha will qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The winners will be determined as follows: teams will be ranked according to the number of points each has accumulated in both matches (for each match, 3 points are awarded to the winner, 1 point to each team in the event of a draw and 0 points to the loser). If there is equality among the two teams, then the teams will be ranked according to their respective goal difference. If the equality remains, a shoot-out competition will be played to establish the winner. Therefore, the objective of both the Indian Men’s and Indian Women’s Hockey Teams will be to secure direct qualification for the Tokyo 2020 hockey tournaments – which will be staged in Japan’s capital city from 25 July to 7 August next year and involve 12 Men’s and 12 Women’s teams.
Both the Indian Teams were drawn at home against their respective opponents due to their higher ranking. The Indian Men’s Team will be facing Russia only for the third time since 2008, with the previous two encounters seeing the hosts register huge victories (8-0 in a Round-Robin match of the World Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in 2008; and 10-0 in the Pool A match of the FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha held earlier this year).
Speaking ahead of the two important matches, Indian Men’s Team’s Captain Manpreet Singh said, “We are well-prepared for this tournament. We are not concerned about the disparity in the world ranking. For us, every match we play is like we are playing against World Champions. We have suffered in the past due to overconfidence and we will not let that happen this time.”
Russian team Coach Vladimir Konkin, on the other hand said, “We are ranked lower than India but in our hearts and in our mind, we are ranked higher and we will really fight till the last minute. We are definitely prepared to play better than what we did during the FIH Series Final.”
Indian Women’s Team geared up to create history
Meanwhile, the Indian Women’s Team have played their opponents the USA on eight occasions since 2014, registering one win which came in the Tests Matches held in 2016. World No. 9 Indian team has ended up on the losing side on six occasions but the vast improvement in the team saw India play a 1-1 draw in their Pool B match of the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup last year.
Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne spoke highly of his current side and said that they are ready for the test. “We are really excited to play. These are the two matches we have looked forward to and worked on for a whole year. We are ready for the challenge,” stated the Dutchman.
Skipper Rani further added, “After missing out on qualifying at the Asian Games, we decided to shift our focus on to the Olympic Qualifiers. Regardless of who our opponent would be, we trained the entire year for these two matches and now we are looking forward to bring our best.”
Kathleen Sharkey, USA Captain, stated: “I have seen India improve over the years and every match we have played against them, it has been closed and the fight is intense. We are expecting a good challenge from them. These past few days here have been good for us to get used to the weather.”
The FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha will see Indian Women’s Hockey Team play their first match against the USA at 1800hrs IST on Friday, 1st November 2019, which will be followed by the Indian Men’s Hockey Team taking on Russia at 2000hrs IST.
Matches of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Odisha will be live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports HD1 and Hotstar.