Indian hockey ready for Olympic quest

Updated: 16 February 2012 12:37 IST

Australian Michael Nobbs faces his first big test as India's field hockey coach as he aims to win the Olympic qualifying tournament starting in New Delhi on Saturday.

Indian hockey ready for Olympic quest

New Delhi:

Australian Michael Nobbs faces his first big test as India's field hockey coach as he aims to win the Olympic qualifying tournament starting in New Delhi on Saturday.


India, past masters in the sport with a record eight Olympic men's titles, suffered a setback when they failed to make it to the 2008 Beijing Games for the first time since their maiden appearance in 1928.

The hosts have shown encouraging results since Nobbs took over as coach last June, starting with a victory in the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy tournament in China.

India then finished runners-up at the Champions Challenge tournament before beating South Africa 3-1 in a five-match home series in January.

A favourable draw and familiar conditions make 10th-ranked India strong favourites in the six-team group comprising Canada (14th), France (18th), Poland (19th), Italy (28th) and Singapore (41st).

Only the winner after a round-robin league and final will make the trip to London.

"I'm confident of qualifying provided something does not go awfully wrong and there are no bad umpiring decisions against us," Nobbs said ahead of the qualifiers.

"Almost all international teams still fear us. It is the talent of Indian players that makes them potent. We are a naturally attacking side."

Three Olympic berths are up for grabs in the men's section, with the remaining two to be decided after the qualifying tournaments in Dublin and the Japanese city of Kakamigahara.

A team can play in only one event -- and win it -- to go to the Olympics.

Those who have been given a direct entry to the Olympics are defending champions Germany, hosts Britain, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa.

The London ticket will provide a big boost to India's field hockey, a national sport but a poor cousin to cricket.

"Qualifying for the Games this year is very important for the survival of hockey in our country and for its future," Indian midfielder Ignace Tirkey said.

"I am confident we will do it this time. Once we qualify, it would give hockey a new lease of life."

The women's qualifiers, to be played alongside the men's, will see South Africa, India, Italy, Canada, Ukraine and Poland vying for the lone Olympic berth from the six-team group.

Two more women's qualifiers will be decided after tournaments in Belgium and Japan.

Reigning champions the Netherlands, Argentina, Australia, China, Germany, Britain, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States have already made it to the main draw for women.



Topics : Olympics 2012 Hockey
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