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Indian eves face daunting task
January 31, 2004 17:21 IST
Indian eves would have to play out of their skin if they wish to finish anywhere in the medals bracket in the fifth Women's Asia Cup tournament which gets underway at the National Stadium, New Delhi on Sunday.
The hosts, who were runners-up in the last edition of the event in 1999, have kept a very moderate target of atleast winning a bronze medal in this edition as they know that teams like World Championship bronze medallist China, defending champion South Korea and Japan have overtaken them on the international scene in this four-year span, a fact confirmed by the position of the teams in the International Hockey Federation's rankings.
Infact, China, which was not considered a formidable team in world hockey last time around, has improved by leaps and bounds winning gold medal in the Busan Asian Games 2002, the bronze medal in the Women's World Cup at Sydney in 2002 and then finishing second in the Champions Trophy last year.
The Indian eves would launch their campaign against Malaysia on Sunday, whom they beat 8-0 in the last edition, in Group 'A'. But the Malaysians have improved a lot ever since and have set a target of finishing in the top five under their new Indian coach C R Kumar.
The team led by mid fielder Surajlata Devi will then take on China on Monday and Kazakhstan the following day in the other league encounters.
However, Indians, who underwent a preparatory camp at this venue for over a month, are upbeat about achieving their target.
"We have been preparing hard for the championship and we are confident that we will atleast win the bronze medal or even finish higher," coach M K Kaushik said.
The team, which clinched the gold medal at last year's inaugural Afro-Asian Games and also won a double-legged three-nation tournament in Russia, has been shaping up well for the tournament under Kaushik, who is hoping the team will put up a "good performance here as well".
The coach, however, admits that the level of competition in the Asia Cup would be much higher and that his wards will have to play really "hard" to meet their challenge.
Even though the Indians look mostly likely to qualify for the knock-out stage of this four yearly event, the winner of which gets direct entry in the Women's World Cup in 2006, they will have to guard against any kind of complacency while playing Kazakhstan and Malaysia before going for the final kill in their medal hunt.
Defending champions Korea, who won the last edition on a golden goal, are well prepared as always while Japan have put in six months of rigorous training, including a camp in Australia for some time, in their build up for the championship.
Singapore and Sri Lanka complete the roaster for Group 'B' but are most unlikely to challenge Korea and Japan in the league stage.
Pool A: India, China, Kazakhstan and Malaysia.
February 1: Singapore vs Japan (10.30), Korea vs Sri Lanka (11.00), China vs Kazakhstan (13.00), India vs Malaysia (15.00).
February 2: Japan vs Sri Lanka (10.30), Singapore vs Korea (11.00), Kazakhstan vs Malaysia (13.00), China vs India (15.00)
February 3: Rest Day
February 4: Malaysia vs China (10.30), India vs Kazakhstan (11.00), Sri Lanka vs Singapore (13.00), Korea vs Japan (15.00)
February 5: Rest Day
February 6: 3 Pool A vs 4 Pool B (11.00), 1 Pool A vs 2 Pool B (11.30), 3 Pool B vs 4 Pool A (13.30), 1 Pool B vs 2 Pool A.
February 7: Classification Matches for 7th and 8th position (12.00), Classification Matches for 5th and 6th position (14.30)
February 8: Bronze Medal match (11.00), Final (13.30).