Indian Men To Face Russia, Women Take On USA In FIH Olympic Qualifiers
The drawn teams will play each in back-to-back matches over two days.
The Indian men's hockey team will take on Russia, while the women will lock horns with the USA in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers for a place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The draw, featuring 14 teams, was held at the headquarters of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday. Earlier this year, Indian men had registered a 10-0 win over Russia in the FIH Series Final in Bhubaneswar. However, captain Manpreet Singh has asked his team to not get complacent based on previous success against Russia.
"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," Manpreet Singh stated in a media release.
"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," he added.
The Indian women, on the other hand, played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the US when the two teams last met in the Women's World Cup in 2018. However, the draw helped India qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament in London.
Skipper Rani Rampal, who scored the equaliser for India against the USA last year, said her team is prepared to play any opponent en route to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"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," Rani said.
"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," she added.
The FIH Olympic qualifiers will each feature two nations playing two back-to-back matches, with nations drawn to play each other based on their rankings at the end of the last 2018/2019 Continental Championship.