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Updated January 7th, 2024 at 22:44 IST

Japan and India are sole contenders for Olympic berth, says Japan captain

Japan and New Zealand, the final two remaining teams, arrived here on Sunday for the highly-anticipated Olympic Qualifiers beginning on January 13.

Unbeaten India hold advantage over Korea
Unbeaten India hold advantage over Korea | Image:TheHockeyIndia/X
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Japan skipper Yuri Nagai on Sunday said they made a few changes to their squad following a heart-breaking loss to India in the Asian Champions Trophy final and picked themselves as a top contender for the Women's Olympic qualifiers.

Japan and New Zealand, the final two remaining teams, arrived here on Sunday for the highly-anticipated Olympic Qualifiers beginning on January 13.

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"Among the Asian representatives, Japan and India are the sole contenders in this tournament. We hold optimistic expectations for both nations' performances, aiming for success in this event," Nagai said in a Hockey India (HI) release.

"Following our defeat in the Jharkhand Women's Asian Champions Trophy 2023 Final against India, we organized several training camps. As a result, we've made a few changes in our squad based on those sessions." Japan are placed in Pool A and will begin their campaign against Czech Republic on January 13, before facing Germany on January 14 and Chile on January 16.

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Japan had lost 0-4 to India in the final of the Asian Champions trophy last November here.

With only the top three teams set to book a spot for the Paris Olympics, both sides are expecting tough competition in the upcoming tournament.

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"The competition ahead poses a formidable challenge with several strong teams in our group. However, our sole focus is on triumphing over every opponent in the quest for Olympic qualification.

"Regardless of our competitors, we'll approach each match individually and assess our progress step by step," Coach Jude Menezes said.

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"The Ranchi pitch presents its challenges, but our prior experience here grants us an edge over most of our opponents." For the World No. 11 New Zealand, this is the first visit to India and the Black Sticks find themselves in a tricky group with the hosts.

"India poses a formidable challenge for us; their history and gameplay make them a tough opponent to overcome," New Zealand Captain Olivia Merry said.

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"The teams in our Pool present similar challenges, demanding our best performance. Our primary objective is securing the top spot in our Pool to ensure a place in the Semi-Finals.

NZ, placed in Pool B, will take on Italy in their first game on January 13, before taking on hosts India the next day. They will meet the United States on January 16 in their final two Pool games.

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Published January 7th, 2024 at 22:44 IST

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