Asian Games champion Japan started their preparation for next year’s Tokyo Olympics in the right earnest, beating Mexico 3-1- in their opening match of the FIH Series Finals hockey tournament here Friday.
Having already qualified for the Olympics being the hosts as well as continental champions, Japan are taking this tournament as a preparation for the quadrennial event.
World no. 18 Japan’s campaign got off to a perfect start when Hirotaka Zendana (3rd, 34th minutes) converted two penalty corners while Shota Yamada (21st) scored from a penalty stroke to emerge winners in the Pool B encounter.
But Japan were in for an early shock when Erik Hernandez gave world no. 39 Mexico the lead as early as the third minute.
The lead, however, was shortlived as within seconds Zendana struck from Japan’s first penalty corner to draw level.
Thereafter, the Japanese slowly and steadily got their footing in the match and controlled the proceedings.
Japan will play South Africa in their next match Saturday, while Mexico will be up against USA.
The top two teams of the ongoing FIH Series Finals will seal their berths in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers to be held in October-November this year.