Indian hockey teams aim for Paris berth via Hangzhou Asian Games
Indian men's and women's hockey teams are keen to win the gold medal at the upcoming Asian Games to secure direct qualification for the next year's Paris Olympics.
The men's team, who ended a 41-year wait for an Olympic medal winning a bronze at Tokyo Games, will compete in the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai from August 3 in the build-up to the Hangzhou showpiece in September-October.
"We have important matches coming up as we inch closer to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. We are excited about our upcoming tour as it also gives us a great opportunity to play against quality teams," Indian men's team skipper Harmanpreet Singh told Hockey India.
India will battle it out against the likes of South Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan and China in the Asian Champions Trophy.
"These matches will be crucial for us as we prepare for the all-important Hangzhou Asian Games scheduled later this year. We are aware of what is at stake, and we are not taking anything for granted.”
In addition to the rigorous training in the camps under the leadership of chief coach Craig Fulton, Hockey India has also roped in the services of mental conditioning expert Paddy Upton for the men's team.
Besides this, special camps are being organised with Dennis van de Pol, the renowned hockey goalkeeping coach from the Netherlands.
Having played matches in Germany, the women's team on the other hand are in Spain for the 100th Anniversary Spanish Hockey Federation-International Tournament.
"We will give our everything on the field," Indian women's team skipper Savita Punia said.
"All the players in the team know that we have to win the gold medal in the Hangzhou Asian Games to earn direct qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics."
"We hope to maintain the same consistency and form as we have been doing so far,” she added.
The women's team narrowly missed a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics after going down to England 3-4.
At the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year, they returned with a bronze and emerged victorious in the 2022 Nations Cup.
100th Anniversary Spanish Hockey Federation: India go down 2-1 to Spain
The Indian Men’s Hockey Team put up a fight in their opening game of the 100th Anniversary Spanish Hockey Federation - International Tournament but hosts Spain won the closely-fought tie 2-1 in Barcelona.
Captain Harmanpreet Singh (59’) netted a goal for India after Pau Cunill (11’) and Joaquin Menini (33’) had put the hosts in front. As per the press release, India commenced the match on an aggressive note with high pressing in the first quarter but could not take the lead. Meanwhile, hosts Spain began to gain momentum as the first quarter progressed, and it paid off as Pau Cunill (11') found the back of the net to put the hosts ahead in the 11th minute.
With the scoreline stacked against them, India looked to control possession and launch a counterattack in the second quarter in search of an equaliser, but Spain's defence held strong to prevent them from bouncing back, as the second quarter ended goalless, with Spain leading 1-0 at half-time.
The third quarter began with the Indian team attacking ruthlessly and repeatedly testing Spain's defence; however, the hosts not only kept India at bay but also doubled their lead through Joaquin Menini (33'), who found himself in an ideal position to deflect in a lighting shot by Jose Basterra.
Trailing by two goals, India shifted gears to put relentless pressure on Spain and even won a penalty corner, but were unable to capitalise on it. Also, Spain’s goalkeeper saved Indian Captain Harmanpreet Singh’s fiery shot from a distance towards the end of the third quarter to make sure that Spain enters the final 15 minutes of the game with the two goals lead.
In their bid to bounce back in the game, India came out all guns blazing in the fourth quarter and created some good scoring opportunities, but they still struggled to find their first goal of the game.
Meanwhile, Spain switched to counter-attacking and won back-to-back penalty corners, but were unable to convert any of them.
On the other hand, India continued to put pressure on the home team's defence, which paid off when Captain Harmanpreet Singh (59') converted a penalty corner in the dying minutes of the game to keep his team in the game. However, Spain prevented India from scoring another goal, and the game ended 2-1 in favour of the hosts.
Indian Men’s Hockey Team will next take on the Netherlands in their second game of the tournament on Wednesday.