Hiroshima (Japan): Indians will begin their campaign at the FIH Women’s hockey Series Finals Hiroshima 2019 on Saturday when they take on Uruguay in their Pool A match.
Ranked No.9 in the World, the Indian team led by Striker Rani will face Poland and Fiji in the subsequent matches in the tournament. Teams that finish at the top two in the tournament will make it to the Qualification round for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to be held later this year.
“Our only mission this year is to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the athletes are prepared for this challenge. We are a better experienced team now and the athletes know the importance of this tournament in which the winning team will be rewarded with 500 ranking points and that gives home advantage for the next round of qualification,” stated Indian Team Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne on the eve of their opening match.
With solid preparations for the tournament, Marijne believes it is a realistic goal for his team to finish on the top. “We had two good practice matches (against a local club and the Japanese team). Since we arrived one week prior to the start, we have had good training sessions which has provided us an understanding of the pitch. We have played these teams during the World League Round 2 in 2017 and we are aware of their capabilities,” Marijne said.
“The pitch here is fast which suits our style of play. We have utilized the past week in Hiroshima to allow our bodies to get used to the time-difference and the weather. On Thursday we had an off day to allow the players to keep their minds off hockey for a bit and come back feeling fresh on Friday where we have one good training session to build the rhythm for the match on Saturday,” he explained. In the warm-up matches, India beat a local club team 4-1 followed by a 2-1 win against the Japanese team who are grouped in Pool B along with Chile, Russia and Mexico.
After their first match on Saturday, India will next play Poland on Sunday followed by Fiji on Tuesday. “Our previous tours this year to Spain, Malaysia and Republic of Korea taught us to remain focused on our end result and not to take any team lightly. Every single match is important and that’s how the team needs to approach it,” added the Chief Coach who is confident his team will get off to a winning start in the tournament.