Jakarta: Indian men’s hockey team is chasing a second successive Asian Games gold not just to secure qualification to the 2020 Olympics, but also boost its confidence for the World Cup.
“In the last couple of years we have proved to the world that India is back on the hockey map. We are number five in the world but by the end of the year we want to be in top three,” said coach Harendra Singh before leaving for Jakarta.
“The Asian Games is the first step towards achieving that goal. We want to have a shot at the podium in 2020 Tokyo and the Asian Games will set the tone for our preparation towards that.”
Harendra, who took over the reigns of the senior men’s national team in May this year, wants his wards to create a legacy by the end of 2018 and, according to him, the Asiad is the first step towards that target. Under him, India broke a 15-year jinx by lifting the junior World Cup in 2016.
“We can’t think of anything less than a gold. It is not acceptable. But we have to prove ourselves on the pitch in each and every match,” Harendra said.
“A gold here will make us the first team to qualify for the 2020 Olympics and we will get one year and 11 months to prepare ourselves.”
In the Champions Trophy in Netherlands – Harendra’s first major tournament since taking charge – India were the runners-up. They lost 1-3 in a thrilling shoot-out against Australia.
“We are a much better team now. We have worked out on the mistakes which we committed in the Champions Trophy, like positioning inside the circle and penalty corner conversions and defence,” said Harendra.
Harendra is someone who doesn’t like to talk about opponents and believes in concentrating on his own work.
“Other teams don’t matter to me. I don’t like to talk about other teams. I believe in doing my own job,” he said.
India has been placed in Pool A in men’s hockey competition at the Games alongside Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. They will open their campaign against Hong Kong on August 22.