Dubbed as favorites, Team India will kick-start their campaign looking to defend their title at the 2018 Asian Games to be held in Indonesia. In the 2014 edition, India claimed gold by beating arch-rivals Pakistan in the finals. Come August 18, they will look to repeat the incredible feat in Jakarta and clinch a second-successive Asian Games gold.
In Indonesia, an Olympic berth is at stake and the Indian men's hockey team will look to settle for nothing less than gold. Qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Games would also serve as a great morale-booster for the 2018 World Cup which is scheduled to be held from 28 November to 16 December 2018, at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India.
However, Indian men’s hockey team coach Harendra Singh has refused to be complacent ahead of the Asian Games. A firm believer of persistence and hard-work, coach Harendra Singh eyes podium finishes at the upcoming events.
“In the last couple of years we have proved to the world that India is back on the hockey map. We are number five in the world but by the end of the year we want to be in top 3 in the world,” Harendra told PTI during an interview before leaving for Jakarta.
“The Asian Games is the first step towards achieving that goal. We want to have a shot at the podium in 2020 Tokyo and the Asian Games will set the tone for our preparation towards that.”
After Harendra Singh took over the reigns from Roelant Oltmans, his appointment as chief coach has seen an upswing in Team India's fortunes. In the Champions Trophy, Team India capped their impressive showing by securing a runners-up finish. They went on to beat the likes of Argentina and Pakistan, but stumbled in their final hurdle against hockey heavyweights, Australia
Not to rest of his past laurels, chief coach Harendra Singh aims to create a legacy by the end of 2018. And, according to him, the Asian Games is the first step towards attaining that dream.
“2018 is a very important year for us and I want this team to create a legacy by the end of the year. I want this team to be remembered for what they achieved on the pitch,” said the master tactician, under whose tutelage India broke a 15-year jinx by lifting the Junior World Cup in 2016.
For the Asian Games, India is grouped alongside Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong China, forming pool B. Should India progress to the knockout phase, they are likely to face stiff competition from Pakistan and Malaysia.
With Pakistan being the most successful teams in this history of the Asian Game, having won eight gold medals. India will look to better their tally - having won three golds and securing a runners-up finish nine times.
Following is the complete schedule:
Wednesday, 22 August 2018: India v Hong Kong China
Friday, 24 August 2018: Japan v India
Sunday, 26 August 2018: Korea v India
Tuesday, 28 August 2018: India v Sri Lanka
(With PTI Inputs)