New Delhi: The men’s hockey coach Harendra Singh said Tuesday defending champions India cannot afford to take things easy in next month’s Asian Games even though they are gold medal favourites owing to their highest-ranked status in the draw.
Newly-promoted to World No.5, India have been placed in Pool A alongside Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong while Pool B comprises Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Oman, Thailand and hosts Indonesia.
“Though we are the defending champions, we cannot take any team lightly. I don’t call this an easy group. We must be highly cautious against each of these teams as we have not played against teams like Hong Kong and Sri Lanka,” Harendra said after the schedule was announced.
“Japan are a rising team in Asia and are capable of surprising any side. They have done well in recent events while Korea too are a good squad and play very defensive hockey,” he asserted.
India defeated Pakistan in the final of the 2014 Asian Games to win the gold and with the 2020 Olympics berth at stake, Harendra and his men would be eager to book their direct ticket to Tokyo at Indonesia only.
“I expect the team to be hungry to win the gold again and get direct qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games. I want to make it clear that there will be no room for complacency,” the chief coach asserted.
The Indian women’s team, meanwhile, have been placed in Pool B alongside title holders Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Indonesia. Pool A features China, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.
Sjoerd Marijne, chief coach of Indian women’s hockey team, who had settled for bronze in 2014 Asiad, is also eying a gold in the Asian Games but said Korea will give them a tough fight in their pursuit.
India up to fifth
New Delhi: India have jumped a rung to fifth position in the men’s hockey world rankings issued by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), Tuesday. India (1,484 points) have made the jump by virtue of their second consecutive runners-up finish at the Champions Trophy in Breda, the Netherlands earlier this month. The tournament winners Australia (1,906) lead the chart and are 23 points ahead of second-placed Argentina (1883). Belgium (1709) and Netherlands (1654) are third and fourth respectively.