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'Focus on Olympics, securing direct entry to 2026 WC': Harmanpreet Singh

Ahead of the European leg of the FIH Pro League, the Indian men's team captain Harmanpreet Singh wants to win all the matches and head to the Olympics in their best possible shape.

Focus on Olympics, securing direct entry to 2026 WC: Harmanpreet Singh
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The Indian men's team captain Harmanpreet Singh scored 12 goals in the FIH Pro League. (Photo credit: Hockey India)

By

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 21 May 2024 10:44 AM GMT

The Indian men's hockey team will look to set right their flaws ahead of the Paris Olympics, starting on July 26, while the women's team will look to overcome the sadness of missing out on the qualification for the Games when the European leg of the FIH Pro League begins in Antwerp, Belgium against Argentina on Wednesday.

In April, the Indian men's team suffered a 0-5 thrashing at the hands of Australia, exposing the problem area of the Men in Blue.

Now, as the Indian players arrive in Europe just one and a half months ahead of the Paris Olympics, they aim to give their best on the pitch and win all their matches en route to the Games.

Qualification to World Cup at stake

“We are grateful to have this opportunity to test ourselves against tough opponents like Argentina, Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics," said Harmanpreet Singh ahead of their clash against Argentina.

"Undoubtedly, we are focused on the Olympics but we also need to give our best to finish as Champions and secure direct qualification for the 2026 Hockey World Cup as well. To achieve both these targets we will strive to give our all on the pitch and win all our matches,” he added.

The Indian men's team are currently placed third on the FIH Pro League rankings with 15 points. The Netherlands are leading the charts with 26 points from 12 matches, while Australia have 20 points from eight matches.

Harmanpreet is determined to make their best possible finish in the Pro League to enter the Olympics in the best possible shape while also acquiring a direct entry to the 2026 World Cup.

"To achieve both these targets (doing well ahead of Olympics and secure direct qualification for 2026 World Cup), we will strive to give our all on the pitch and win all our matches," the skipper said.

In the Europe leg of the Pro League, the Indian team will also play against Belgium, Germany and Great Britain.

Women's team look to close gap

Meanwhile, the newly appointed captain of the Indian women's team, Salima Tete, is optimistic about a good finish in the Pro League after their preparations in South Africa earlier this month. The Indian women's team are currently placed at the sixth spot in the Pro League standings.

"We played practice matches against South Africa (in India) to prepare for these Hockey Pro League matches. The point difference between us and second-placed China is just seven points," said Tete in a Hockey India release.

"We (will) aim to close this gap in the remaining matches against Argentina, Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain in a bid to finish as high as we can," she added.

In January this year, the Indian women's team missed out on the qualification for the Paris Olympics when they lost to Japan 0-1 in the final qualifying game in Ranchi.

The men's and women's teams will play Belgium again on May 25.

The Indian teams will face Argentina on May 26 to end their first half of the Europe tour, before heading to London for the final leg of the tournament where they will play Germany on on June 1 and 8 and take on hosts Great Britain on June 2 and 9.

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