New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: All eyes are now on the qualification for 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the Indian men's and women's hockey teams today left from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi for the Asian Games in Indonesia. Birendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas are two players from Odisha in the men's team while Sunita Lakra, Namita Toppo, Lilima Minz and Deep Grace Ekka have been included in the women's squad for the prestigious games which is scheduled to begin from August 18.
While the 18-member Women's team will begin its campaign against hosts Indonesia in the opening match of Pool B on August 19, the Indian Men will begin their title defence against Indonesia on August 20.
Speaking about improving their previous performance of Bronze Medal in 2014, Women's Team Captain Rani Rampal said, 'We are going into the Asian Games after a strong performance in the FIH Women's World Cup 2018 which has given us a lot of confidence. Though we were disappointed that we did not make it to the Semi Finals, winning a Gold in the Asian Games will help fade the bitter memories of the World Cup. The team is upbeat, confident and we are eager to further improve our career best World Ranking of No.9 by winning the Asian Games.' The Women's team will face Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Indonesia in Pool B and will have to finish in the top two in the Pool Stage to make it to the Semi Final of the Asian Games.
Meanwhile, the Indian Men's Hockey Team, grouped with Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong China will be aiming to defend their title and ensure good momentum as they approach the season Finale in November at the Hockey Men's World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018.
'We had good lead-up to the Asian Games with high intensity training camp in Bengaluru. We also did well in the practice matches against Bangladesh, Korea and New Zealand where we wanted to implement certain changes in goal-scoring positions within the striking circle because that was one of the areas we fell behind in the FIH Champions Trophy 2018. We have also worked a lot on our PC conversion, PC defending and shootouts. Now we just need to execute perfectly in every single match and return home with the Gold,' said Indian Men's Team Captain PR Sreejesh.
In the 2014 Asian Games, India had beaten arch-rivals Pakistan in a Shootout to win the Gold and earned a qualification for the Rio Olympic Games.
On asked who would be India's toughest opponent this time around, Sreejesh said, 'No team can be taken lightly because every single team would come with the mindset of winning the tournament and get direct qualification for Tokyo Olympics. However, I feel that with the potential we have in the current team we will be fighting to better our own performance and ensure we play like a champion squad.'