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2019 FIH Olympic Qualifiers Draw: Indian men have it easy, women face tricky challenge

The Indian men’s team will take on Russia while the women’s team have been drawn against the United States of America in the Olympic Qualifiers.

2019 FIH Olympic Qualifiers Draw: Indian men have it easy, women face tricky challenge

The Bridge Desk

Published: 9 Sep 2019 12:20 PM GMT

The International Hockey Federation (FIH), on Monday, conducted the draw at their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland for both men’s and women’s Olympic qualifiers to be held in October-November.

The Indian men’s team will take on World No. 22 Russia while the women’s team have been drawn against World No. 13 the United States of America. The first leg of the fixtures are scheduled to be held between 25-27 October while the second leg will be held between 1-3 November 2019.

Before the draw, many had hoped for a India-Pakistan clash in the men’s category. However, according to the draw, Pakistan will be up against the formidable Netherlands.

Indian men boast impressive record against Russia

India had registered a sensational 10-0 win against Russia when they last played against them during the FIH Series Final in Bhubaneswar earlier this year. In another meeting, the Men in Blue had drubbed Russia 8-0.

The Russian team, on the other hand, had won 12-1 against Uzbekistan, 3-2 against Poland and lost a close 1-2 match against South Africa in the knockout stage.

Considering they are a team who can be good in defence, Indian Team Skipper Manpreet Singh said they can't take the Russian squad lightly. He said:

As our Chief Coach Graham Reid says, we cannot take any team lightly and we need to respect every opponent. There is no room for complacency especially because we have seen what Russia is capable of. The weather conditions back in June was challenging for them but it may not be the same case this time. I am sure they will come well prepared as it's the Olympic Qualifiers and they are capable of surprising any team hence it is important we remain focused on our own performance and play our best hockey.

The host team India will be riding on confidence following a good show at the Olympic Test event in Tokyo where a young squad led by defender and drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh remained unbeaten against Malaysia (6-0), Japan (6-3) and beat New Zealand (5-0) in the Final to win the tournament.

Indian women face tricky challenge

The Indian Women's Hockey Team will be riding on confidence following a series of good performances in the recent events. Last year, when they faced USA, India played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw against them to qualify for the knockout stages of the Women's World Cup in London. 

India were 0-1 down when Margaux Paolino scored in the 11th minute, but Captain Rani levelled the scores in the 31st minute. The Indian team held their nerve and ensured a place in the next stage against a strong USA team.

The Indian Women's Hockey Team's Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne expressed that the side is well-prepared and excited to play the FIH Olympic Qualifiers at home. Marijne said:

The team has been performing well in the last few months. We have gained momentum at the right time by winning the FIH Women's Series Finals Hiroshima 2019 and the Olympic Test Event. 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. We are focusing on continuing the brilliant communication on the field and maintain our level of performance.

The five-match series during India's tour of England in September will serve as the perfect series for the Indian Women's Hockey Team to prepare for the FIH Olympic Qualifiers.

"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. I understand there has been a lot of suspense over which team we might draw to play against in the Olympic Qualifiers but we didn't want to let it come in the way of our preparations. 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 and qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics 2020," stated Indian Team Captain Rani.

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