Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams have been handed fairly easy draws in FIH Olympic Qualifiers after the draw involved 14 teams was held at the headquarters of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday.
The men’s team will be up against Russia, ranked 22nd in the world, while the women’s team will face the United States of America who have an FIH ranking of 13.
The men’s team had registered a 10-0 win over Russia when they last played against them during the FIH Series Final in Bhubaneswar earlier this year. The Russian team, on the other hand, had won 12-1 against Uzbekistan, 3-2 against Poland and lost a close 1-2 match against South Africa in the knockout stage.
Indian team skipper Manpreet Singh said they can’t take the Russian squad lightly considering their quality in defence.
“As our coach Graham Reid says, we cannot take any team lightly and we need to respect every opponent. There is no room for complacency, especially because we have seen what Russia is capable of.
The weather conditions back in June were challenging for them but it may not be the same case this time. I am sure they will come well prepared as it’s the Olympic Qualifiers and they are capable of surprising any team hence it is important we remain focused on our own performance and play our best hockey,” he said while reacting to the draw.
The men’s team will be riding on confidence following a good show at the Olympic Test event in Tokyo where a young squad led by defender and drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh won all their games (Malaysia [6-0], Japan [6-3] and New Zealand [5-0]) to win the tournament.
The women’s team played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the USA in their previous meeting at the Women’s World Cup, however, Sjoerd Marijne stated that the side is well-prepared and excited to play the 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 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 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.