Holders India face Oman in opener
Muscat, October 17
Determined to redeem its pride after a below-par show at the Asian Games, the Indian men’s hockey team is expected to make a solid start when it clashes with hosts Oman in the Asian Champions Trophy opener here tomorrow.
World No. 5 India go into the tournament as the highest-ranked side and tackling Oman should not be a problem. India beat Oman 7-0 when the two teams last met — in the 2014 Asian Games. Coach Harendra Singh believes that facing the hosts will be a good test for his team ahead of other crucial round-robin matches. “We are very excited to start our campaign against the hosts, who will be playing in front of their home crowd,” Harendra said.
“The opening match will be a good test for us ahead of some crucial pool matches against Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan and South Korea. It is important for us to the start the competition by doing the basics right and producing our best performance in order to build momentum for the upcoming fixtures.”
India go into the tournament as the defending champions, having won the 2016 edition by defeating Pakistan 3-2 in the final in Malaysia.
“We know that we have a good team which is capable of defeating any country in the world, but sometimes things do not go your way. Therefore, it is important for the unit to keep focus throughout the sixty minutes and not give the opponents any chances,” the coach said.
“We have to make sure that we have improved from the mistakes we committed at the Asian Games, and this tournament gives us the perfect opportunity to regain confidence ahead of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar. Our immediate aim is to qualify for the semifinals of the competition and the team will work hard to achieve that,” he said.
India will face archrivals Pakistan on October 20, Japan on October 21, Malaysia on October 23 and South Korea on October 24.
India and Pakistan have both clinched the title twice each and will be looking to win a record third time.