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Olympic hockey qualifier: 'Tough to beat India'

January 31, 2012 15:12 IST

Canada hockey captain Ken Pereira says it will be extremely tough to beat India in their own backyard at next month's Olympic hockey qualifier, in Delhi.

"The Indian side is always a strong team; they always play well at home. We saw them play in the recent Champions challenge and they looked very good. There are a few new players and a new coach, but I am sure they are adjusting well," said Pereira, from Canada.

"I am sure they will be ready to play at home, and after missing out on the last Olympics they are very motivated and ready to play," he added.

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A two-time Olympian, Pereira also said though the Indian team is a good mix of youth and experience, the Canadian team is well-prepared to take on the hosts.

"Whenever you get to play at home it's great and there may be a small advantage; but it does not mean other teams don't have a chance. I do love the crowd in India, as they really get into the games. It makes it very exciting, and coming from Canada, where the crowds are significantly smaller, it's always fun," said the 39-year-old midfielder.

The London Olympic qualifier will be held at the Major Dhyanchand stadium in Delhi from February 18 to 26. India, Canada, Italy, Poland, Singapore and France make up the field in the men's tournament.

Pereira, who captained Canada in the 2010 World Cup, and Delhi Commonwealth Games, said he is hoping for a better performance this time.

"Last time we were in India was for the Commonwealth Games, our record was 2-2-1. We were two minutes or so away from making the semis, which would have been great for us. Unfortunately, it was not the case and we placed seventh.

"Just like any team, you are always looking to improve on previous results," said the player of Indian origin.

Elaborating on the composition of his team, Pereira said, "We have experienced midfielders in Rob Short and Sukhwinder Singh Gabbar. Scott Tupper is our drag flicker, while Scott Sandison is an experienced defender.

"There are also some experienced players in the forward line who have been in Delhi during World Cup and CWG."

He said the team's preparations have been hindered by some bad weather back home.

"Weather is always a bit of a struggle with snow and freezing temperatures. We are making the best of it, though; you get use to it. We have no tours planned or Test matches before we go to India.

"The financial situation is always tough for us; it's always a battle. There is some relief from government organisations -- Own the Podium, Sport Canada -- and a charitable organisation that helps the national team athletes, called CanFund," he said.

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