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Pillay backs Indian hockey team to qualify for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Mumbai: Insisting that India is currently at par with other leading hockey-playing nations, four-time Olympian Dhanraj Pillay says he is confident of the national team’s qualification for next year’s Tokyo Games.

The draw to determine the matches of the upcoming FIH Hockey Olympic qualifiers will be held on September 9 at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It will be conducted by FIH CEO Thierry Weil and will be streamed live on the FIH Facebook page.

14 men’s and 14 women’s teams, including India, will be involved in the draw.

“Right now, we (India) are at par with Australia, Germany, Holland, Argentina, Belgium and so they (the team) should not be scared to face any team and move ahead with full confidence,” Pillay told reporters here on Thursday night after attending a National Sports Day function organised by the Maharashtra government.

Pillay, who also played in four World Cups apart from four Asian Games, said the way the men’s national team was performing right now, they would surely make it to the Tokyo Games.

“It is very important that first we qualify for the Olympics. It is not only my dream but that of the entire hockey fraternity that Olympics medal should come to India because last was in 1980 Games. After that we have struggled to get a medal in the Olympics,” he noted.

India won the last medal in hockey at the Olympics — a gold — in the 1980 summer Games at Moscow, but after that the country hasn’t tasted any success at the quadrennial event. They had even failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The former skipper feels the real work for coach Graham Reid and his men would begin after qualifying for the Olympics.

“The way the team is performing and playing right now, I am confident that they will qualify for the Olympics and after that their (real) works starts because Olympics is a different ball game and you can’t take even one match lightly. Points are important in every match and you will be playing 5-6 (teams) in alternate days,” Pillay said.

Pillay, who hails from Khadki area in Pune, also heaped praise on Australian Reid, saying he was doing his job earnestly.

“As of now he (Reid) is doing a good job. His job is to coach and he is doing the job earnestly,” Pillay signed off.

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Rupinderpal, Lalit return to Indian hockey squad for Belgium tour

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Rupinderpal Singh
Rupinderpal Singh

New Delhi: Forward Lalit Upadhyay and drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh on Friday returned to the 20-member Indian men’s hockey squad, to be led by Manpreet Singh, for the tour of Belgium from September 26 to October 3.

India will be playing three matches against Belgium and two matches against Spain during the week-long tour.

Upadhyay will be making a comeback after having last played during the men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar. Rupinderpal had missed out on the Olympic Test Event earlier this year.

Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh joins the side after being rested for the Olympic Test Event while Krishan B Pathak is the other goalkeeper in the team.

“All the players in the squad complement each other very well and we are hoping that the team continues its good form. We are delighted to have Lalit back in the squad as he will play a vital role in the forward line,” chief coach Graham Reid said.

He was also happy that Rupinderpal worked on his game during his time away from the national team and is now back in the mix.

“It’s fantastic to have Rupinderpal back in the side as well, he has improved his game since the Men’s Series Finals. We are still looking to fine-tune a few aspects of our game before we leave for Belgium,” said Reid.

The Australian said that the tour of Belgium will be the perfect preparation for the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers match against Russia in Odisha.

“Belgium are a strong team and if we perform well against them at their own backyard, then the team will gain a lot of confidence ahead of the Olympic Qualifiers match against Russia. We are expecting a tough challenge from Spain as well.”

The Indian squad: Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak; Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh (Vice-Captain), Surender Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Gurinder Singh, Khadangbam Kothajit Singh, Rupinderpal Singh;

Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Nilakanta Sharma;

Forwards: Mandeep Singh, SV Sunil; Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Ramandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Akashdeep Singh.

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India men to play Russia, women draw USA in hockey Olympic qualifier

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indian hockey

Lausanne (Switzerland): India’s men’s hockey team was on Monday pitted against lower-ranked Russia while the women’s team drew USA in the final round of the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers.current sports news

Eight-time Olympic champions India are ranked five in the world while the Russians are placed 22 in the FIH world rankings. India had mauled Russia 10-0 during the FIH Series Final in Bhubaneswar earlier this year.

The women American team is placed four places below India (ranked 9) it won’t be a cake walk for the Rani Rampal-led side when they take the field for the FIH Olympic qualifiers in October-November this year.

The Indian women had played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw against USA in their last meeting at the Women’s World Cup in London last year.

The nations will compete in two back-to-back matches to seal their tickets for the Tokyo Games.

The Indian men’s hockey team chief coach Graham Reid said they are confident of qualifying for the big-ticket event.

“We are committed to achieving the Olympic qualification and in that pursuit we continue to emphasise on improving our defence. I believe training and playing against some of the best teams of the world will give us a good platform for the qualifiers,” Reid said.

The Indian women’s hockey team’s chief coach Sjoerd Marijne too sounded optimistic about their chances.

“The team has been performing well in the last few months. All the players are confident, very excited to take part in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers at home and they are charged up to achieve the team’s goal,” said Marijne.

As part of preparation for the Qualifiers, the Indian women’s team will play a five-match series against England this month.

“I’ve always believed that the opponent we play does not matter as long as we are better prepared and that’s been our focus,” said Rani Rampal.

“We knew the areas we had to work on to be in the best form to play two back-to-back matches and we are working towards winning them.”

Among other FIH Olympic matches in the men’s section, Netherlands will host Pakistan, Germany will play Russia, Great Britain are up against Malaysia, Spain have drawn France, New Zealand will play Korea and Canada have been pitted against Ireland.

In the women’s section, Australia will play Russia, Germany will lock horns with Italy, Great Britain are up against Chile, Spain have drawn Korea, Ireland will face Canada and China are slated to meet Belgium.

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India face Dutch in their FIH Pro League opener on January 18

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New Delhi: The Indian men’s hockey team will open its campaign in the FIH Pro League against the Netherlands at home in January next year.sports news in english

According to the schedule of the FIH Pro League season 2 released on Wednesday, India, who pulled out of the inaugural edition of the tournament, will play the Dutch side on January 18 and 19 next year.

India will then host world champions Belgium on February 8 and 9 followed by two more home fixtures against Australia on February 22 and 23.

The Indian team will then leave for the away games in Germany (April 25 and 26) and Great Britain (May 2 and 3).

India will return to play on home soil on May 23 and 24 against New Zealand before travelling to Argentina to play on June 5 and 6.

India will play the last leg of the Pro League round-robin matches in Spain on June 13 and 14. India will play a total of eight home games with six matches in January and February and two games in May.

Indian men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh expressed his team’s excitement following the announcement of the schedule.

“We are really excited to begin our first FIH Pro League campaign on home soil in January. The league provides a great opportunity to play against top teams in the world and we expect all the matches to be challenging,” he said.

“I am sure playing continuous top-level matches will be beneficial in the all-important Olympic year and this could also mean good match exposure for all players in the core group,” added Manpreet.

“With India playing the home leg against top teams like the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia, I am sure hockey fans in India will get to watch the very best of hockey. India has always enjoyed playing these teams on home soil.”

India’s chief coach Graham Reid emphasised on the importance of regular exposures against top teams ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

“We are very excited about the prospects of playing in the Pro League next year. Having experienced it first-hand, I know how important it is to have regular competition.

“To play against the best teams in the world and test the depth of this talented young squad will be ideal preparation for the Tokyo Olympics should we qualify in November,” he said.

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