Bhubaneswar: The Indian men’s hockey team were quick to leave behind the disappointment of the 2018 World Cup and focus on their lone target for 2019, which was to make the qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Now that the goal has been accomplished, the eyes of the team are set on finishing in the top four in the prestigious quadrennial event.
“We have nine months to prepare for the Olympics and the plan is to get better and better each day, in each session that we train. Under chief coach Graham Reid there is already a solid process in place and we just need to keep at it and I am sure the result will follow,” said skipper Manpreet Singh.
“The team strongly believes we have a good shot at finishing Top 4 at the Tokyo Olympics and once we make the semi-final, it can be anybody’s game there onwards.”
Having won back-to-back Asian Champions Trophy in 2016 and 2018, the team will aim to claim the title third time in a row when the bi-annual tournament returns in 2020.
“It is definitely on our mind to defend the Asian Champions Trophy title. It will be sweet to make it a hat-trick, but we would like to take it step-by-step, tournament-by-tournament,” the Indian skipper said.
Manpreet also believes that the increase in pool of players who are of international standards was also another big positive for the team in 2019.
“I think the year 2019 was full of positives. Our single most important target was to make the Olympic qualification and in that pursuit we improved collectively as a team and performed consistently. I think retaining our World Ranking (No.5) was also a morale boost.
“We saw quite a few youngsters play their first international match. It is good to have a strong pool of players who have the capabilities of handling the pressure at international level. This is an advantage especially now when we play back-to-back FIH Hockey Pro League matches,” he added.
Highlighting the team’s goal for this year, Manpreet said: “Our immediate target is to do well in the FIH Hockey Pro League. We had a meeting yesterday where we gave our feedback to the chief coach and we discussed what we need to do if we intend to win against teams like the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia who we play against in January and February.”