Olympic Hockey Qualifiers: Indian men to play Russia; women face USA

The Indian men’s hockey team will be up against World No. 22 Russia in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers for a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The draw which involved 14 teams was held at the headquarters of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday. The FIH Hockey Olympic qualifiers will each feature two nations playing two back-to-back matches, with nations drawn to play each other based on their rankings at the end of the last 2018 / 2019 Continental Championship, namely the Oceania Cup (8 September).

India being in the top half of the 14 teams in the qualifiers gets the privilege to host the match.

Meanwhile, Indian Team Chief Coach Graham Reid emphasised that playing World No .2 Belgium in September will help them step-up their performance ahead of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers. He said, “We have built some good momentum with this young squad and I am satisfied with how focused this unit has been. They are committed to achieving the Olympic Qualification and in that pursuit we continue to emphasis on improving our defence and working on creating quality opportunities in the circle during this on-going camp. I believe training and playing against some of the best competition (Belgium) in the world will give us a good platform for the qualifiers.”

The Indian Women’s hockey team has been drawn up against World No. 13 the United States of America.

The Indian Women’s Hockey Team’s Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne expressed that the side is well-prepared and excited to play the FIH Olympic Qualifiers at home. “The team has been performing well in the last few months. We have gained momentum at the right time by winning the FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima 2019 and the Olympic Test Event. All the players are confident, very excited to take part in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers at home and they are charged up to achieve the team’s goal. We are focusing on continuing the brilliant communication on the field and maintain our level of performance,” said Marijne.

The five-match series during India’s tour of England in September will serve as the perfect series for the Indian Women’s Hockey Team to prepare for the FIH Olympic Qualifiers.

“I’ve always believed that the opponent we play does not matter as long as we are better prepared and that’s been our focus. I understand there has been a lot of suspense over which team we might draw to play against in the Olympic Qualifiers but we didn’t want to let it come in the way of our preparations. We knew the areas we had to work on to be in the best form to play two back-to-back matches and we are working towards winning them and qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics 2020,” stated Indian Team Captain Rani.