India captain Manpreet Singh feels performances against top sides like Australia and Argentina in the upcoming Pro League will help the team assess its preparation ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
India is scheduled to compete at the five-month long FIH Pro League starting on January 18, featuring eight other top sides.
“Finishing top two in the [Olympic] pool is the first goal for the team,” Manpreet said. “We play Australia and Argentina in the Pro League next year. How we do against these top teams will determine the level we are at ahead of the Olympics and what we need to improve in the lead up.”
The Indian men’s team, who beat Russia to qualify for the Olympics, has been clubbed alongside world No 1 Australia, defending champions Argentina, hosts Japan, Spain and New Zealand in Pool A of the quadrennial mega event.
The Indian skipper said: “At the Olympics, there’s no easy draw. It may seem that as the third highest ranked team behind Australia and Argentina in our pool, we are grouped in an easier pool compared to Pool B which has Belgium, Netherlands, Germany apart from Great Britain, Canada and South Africa.”
He added, “But, at the Olympics, rankings hardly ever matter. No team can be taken lightly and we need to be our best in every match in the Pool stage which will determine who we play in Quarter Finals. We all still remember what happened against Canada (2-2 draw) in Rio.”
The Indian women’s team has been grouped in a tough Pool B, where it plays world champions Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa.
But skipper Rani Rampal is confident of her team’s chances of reaching the semi-finals. “There is no doubt we have to produce our best in each and every game in the pool stage to make the quarterfinals. The team is very confident that this time we can make it to the top four and from there on it can be anybody’s game,” she said.
“We have played against Ireland and Great Britain in the past year and we have good understanding of the level we need to bring to the game when we play against them but Netherlands is one team we have always wanted to do well against and we have not played enough matches against them. They are one team we look forward to play against,” she added.