To Go

Become
A
Supporter

Home Hockey Hockey: India’s probable pools and schedule at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Hockey: India’s probable pools and schedule at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Published:

Last Updated on 5 min read

The Olympic Hockey qualifiers concluded a few days ago, and both the Indian men’s and women’s teams punched their tickets to Tokyo. While the men eventually came through quite easily, the women went on an incredibly wild roller-coaster ride against USA before eventually clinching their spot.

The focus now moves to the Olympics itself. There will be 12 men and 12 women teams competing in Tokyo. Both tournaments will see 2 pools of 6 teams, with 4 teams from each pool advancing to the quarter-finals.

But how will the pools shape up? And how will the schedule look like?

 Indian men’s and women’s teams punched their tickets to Tokyo
Indian men’s and women’s teams punched their tickets to Tokyo

Pools

The FIH recently put up an interview on its website with its CEO, Thierry Weil, which states that the pools and the entire schedule for Tokyo 2020 will be announced by mid-December.  

The same interview also states that the pools will be based on World Rankings, and will follow the same snake draft system as was followed for the Rio Olympics.

 Rankings of the men's and women's team are expected to stay the same till January.
Rankings of the men’s and women’s team are expected to stay the same till January.

The current World Rankings for men and women are also available on the FIH site. These rankings are expected to stay the same till January. This is because no World Ranking points were allocated for the just-concluded Olympic qualifiers, and there are no tournaments scheduled which would affect the rankings.

Thus, the pools for Tokyo will be formed according to the current World Rankings and can be deduced as follows:

Men’s Draw with world rankings:

POOL APOOL B
Australia (1)Belgium (2)
Argentina (4)Netherlands (3)
India (5)Germany (6)
Spain (8)Great Britain (7)
New Zealand (9)Canada (10)
Japan (15)South Africa (14)

Women’s Draw with world rankings:

Pool A Pool B
Netherlands (1) Australia (2)
Germany (4) Argentina (3)
Great Britain (5) New Zealand (6)
Ireland (8) Spain (7)
India (9) China (10)
South Africa (16) Japan (14)

Pool Analysis – Men

On the men’s side, India would be reasonably happy with their pool. The big European powerhouses – Netherlands, Germany and, now, Belgium – are all slated to be in the other pool while the only team in India’s pool that seems to “scare” fans (and may be even players) before even stepping onto the pitch is Australia.

Even against Argentina, we have a pretty good record with India being the only team to beat them at Rio 2016, before they went on to become the Olympic champions. Spain has also been on a bit of a downswing, barely surviving their Olympic qualifier against France.

On the men’s side, India would be reasonably happy with their pool.
On the men’s side, India would be reasonably happy with their pool.

The downside of India’s pool though is that there is no “easy” team. New Zealand can beat anyone on their day and seem much stronger than, say, Canada (even though Canada has been a bit of a bogey team for India in the past). And Japan will have home advantage, and are the reigning Asian Games Champions, even though India thrashed them 8-0 in the pool stage in Jakarta and then again 7-2 at the FIH Series Finals.

So, if things go well, India might even finish as high as 2nd in their pool. And as long as we don’t falter against New Zealand or have a disaster against Japan (which, has to be said, is always a distinct possibility in Indian hockey), the quarter-finals will be within sight.

Pool Analysis – Women

The women, unfortunately, are likely to be up against it. Netherlands, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Great Britain will all start strong favourites against India while the Asian teams – China and Japan – against whose style India generally do well are both slated to be in the other pool. India will, however, be expected to get the win against South Africa, who look like the clear weakest team in Tokyo. 

So, to make the quarter-finals, India will need to pull out all the stops against Ireland
So, to make the quarter-finals, India will need to pull out all the stops against Ireland

So, it is likely to all come down to the match between Ireland and India. Ireland, of course, emerged as a formidable team at the 2018 World Cup, topping their group and eventually going on to finish runners-up. En route, Ireland defeated India twice but both were narrow wins, 1-0 in the pool stage and then a shoot-out win in the quarter-finals.

So, to make the quarter-finals, India will need to pull out all the stops against Ireland, while also hoping that Ireland is not able to eke out more points than India against the top teams.  

Schedule

The FIH has a document on its website which lays out all its competition policies and procedures. This document specifies the entire order of matches to be played in any tournament conducted by the FIH. For example, the document states that in a tournament with 6-team pools, the top-seeded team in a pool will play the 6th seeded team in their first match and will play the 4th seeded team in their last match. Thus, using the information in this document, India’s entire order of matches in Tokyo can be determined.

Further, the same document also specifies that in FIH tournaments, every team can play a maximum of only 2 matches on any 3 consecutive days and there needs to be a minimum gap of 20 hours (ideally, 22 hours) between two matches of the same team.

India’s entire order of matches in Tokyo can be determined.
India’s entire order of matches in Tokyo can be determined.

In addition, the document also states that teams should not be playing their pool matches at identical hours too often. In Tokyo, with heat concerns, this takes even more priority as the FIH would not want to disadvantage any team by scheduling all their matches in the morning heat.

Then there are commercial considerations. For example, with Japan being the hosts and India being the biggest television market for hockey, and also considering the time zones, the India vs Japan match would be expected to be scheduled in a marquee evening slot, ideally on a weekend.

So, when all of the above factors are combined with the skeleton hockey schedule already available on the Tokyo 2020 official site, a reasonable prediction for India’s entire schedule in Tokyo can be made as follows.

Men’s schedule:

Date Session Match
Jul 25, 2020 Evening India v Spain
Jul 26, 2020 Evening India v Japan
Jul 28, 2020 Morning India v Australia
Jul 29, 2020 Evening India v New Zealand
Jul 31, 2020 Morning India v Argentina
Aug 2, 2020   Quarter-finals
Aug 4, 2020   Semi-finals
Aug 6, 2020 Morning Bronze Medal Match
Aug 6, 2020 Evening Final

Women’s Schedule:

Date Session Match
Jul 26, 2020 Morning India v Germany
Jul 27, 2020 Evening India v Netherlands
Jul 29, 2020 Morning India v Ireland
Jul 30, 2020 Evening India v England
Aug 1, 2020 Evening India v South Africa
Aug 3, 2020   Quarter-finals
Aug 5, 2020   Semi-finals
Aug 7, 2020 Morning Bronze Medal Match
Aug 7, 2020 Evening Final

Once again, while the men’ schedule seems to be well balanced, the women will be treated to a baptism by fire, having to take on Germany and the Netherlands in their first 2 matches. And then they will have to pick themselves right back up for the critical Ireland match. Hopefully, they’ll be up to it.

Kapil Choudhary
Kapil Choudhary
I have been a lover and follower of Indian Sport ever since I learnt to talk. Despite having childhood dreams to represent the country, I grew up to be the most unathletic man on the planet & was thus forced to settle for becoming an IIT-IIM graduate, dabbling in the banking world, and expressing my true passion by tweeting as @kapil857.
100,325FansLike
8,866FollowersFollow
6,238FollowersFollow

Former kabaddi player assaults woman player; arrested

Kabaddi
A former kabaddi player BC Ramesh has been arrested by the Bengaluru Police for abusing and assaulting an Asian Games woman kabaddi player. Ramesh is currently the organizing secretary of the Karnataka Kabaddi Association. He was arrested with three others, who were...