Hangzhou, Sep 23
The Indian men's hockey team will launch its campaign for regaining the Asian Games gold medal and a berth to the Olympic Games in Paris next year, with a gentle loosener against Uzbekistan in Hangzhou on Sunday.
India are ranked third in the FIH World Rankings while Uzbekistan are 66th therefore the Indians will be looking to score as many goals as possible in Sunday's match as that will boost their goal difference in the final analysis.
Along with the gold medal, the Asian Games winner will also bag a direct berth in the Paris Olympic Games next year. Winning the title and Olympic quota here means the teams will not have to go through a qualifying tournament to seal their berth.
India, Japan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore and Uzbekistan are placed in Pool A. Korea, Malaysia, China, Oman, Thailand and Indonesia will compete in Pool B.
The highest-ranked team in the fray here, on paper, India are expected to reach the semifinals without much trouble. But there are some banana-peel moments in store for the team led by Harmanpreet Singh and coached by Craig Fulton will face tough opponents in defending champions Japan and arch-rivals Pakistan.
In recent times, India have found Japan a hard nut to crack, held 1-1 by a team from the Land of Rising Sun in the Asian Champions Trophy 2023 in Chennai a few weeks back, though they went on to thrash them 5-0 in the semifinals.
Though India have dominated Pakistan in recent times, the neighbours are known to produce their best at the Asian Games as they are the most successful country in the Asian Games. In the Asian Champions Trophy in August 2023, India.
Despite the recent clash between the two neighbours, hockey fans here will still be looking forward to the India v Pakistan clash in the Asian Games on September 30.
India and Pakistan have dominated men's hockey at the Asian Games and have met in the final nine times.
While India will launch their campaign on Sunday against Uzbekistan, Pakistan will begin against Singapore in a later match in the day.
India, who are ranked third in FIH World Rankings following a superb performance in the Asian Champions Trophy, are eyeing their fourth gold medal in Asian Games
The Indian men's team, third in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) world rankings, are eyeing their fourth Asian Games gold medal, having won the title in 1966, 1988 and 2014.
Having won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games -- their first medal in four decades, India wants to do well in the Paris Olympic Games to prove that their success in the Japanese capital was no flash in the pan and that they have truly recovered from the decades-long slump they suffered since the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Pakistan are the most successful men's team at the Asian Games with eight gold medals but won their last title in 2010 at Guangzhou. Korea are the second most successful team with 4 gold medals while Japan are the only other country to win an Asian Games gold in men's hockey
Japan won the men's and women's competitions in Jakarta 2018 and will seek a repeat of their performance in Hangzhou.
Though there are fewer chances of that happening this time but then in sports, one never knows the outcome till the final whistle.
Hangzhou, Sep 23