While the Indian men’s hockey team is preparing for their Olympic qualifiers against Russia on November 1 and 2, vice-captain SV Sunil has said that the team will keep a close eye on the qualifying matches which begin this weekend. Pakistan will take on the Netherlands while Spain hosts France.
While the Indian men’s hockey team eagerly await their challenge against Russia in the FIH Olympic qualifiers to be held at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar on November 1 and 2, SV Sunil, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of vice-captaincy, said the team will keep a close eye on the qualifying matches which begin this weekend. Nemesis Pakistan will take on World no. 3 The Netherlands on October 26 and 27 in Amsterdam and World no. 8 Spain host France in Valencia on October 25 and 26.
India’s bugbear from the 2016 Rio Olympics, Canada, too, will be fighting it out for an Olympic berth when they host Ireland in West Vancouver on 26 and 27 November 2019.
“It’s going to be a great weekend of hockey with Pakistan taking on the Netherlands and Spain taking on France. Canada, who gave us the woes back in Rio Olympics will also be playing for an Olympic spot when they take on Ireland. Anything can happen in such crunch games and all teams will come prepared to win a berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” SV Sunil told IANS.
“We will be watching these matches together as a team activity and I don’t think we can predict a clear winner simply because these are Olympic Qualifiers and any team can create an upset. We have seen such results in the past,” he added.
The Indian team during their recent tour to Belgium underwent joint training sessions with the Dutch national team which SV Sunil, India’s most experienced striker, described as ‘high-intensity training’.
“We got to see the level of intensity they (the Netherlands) brought to their training sessions. We monitored their GPS tracking to see the kind of energy they bring into every drill and every interval. They looked in good nick. One can never take their opponents lightly especially when an Olympic Qualification is at stake and a first-hand glimpse of the Netherlands training ahead of their Qualifier against Pakistan showed that they were not taking their opponents lightly.”
Sunil further acknowledged France’s growth into a hockey-playing nation stating the example of their triumph over the Olympics champion Argentina in the men’s World Cup last year.
While the Indian team is going through final preparations in Bhubaneswar before their all-important qualifiers, Sunil added that watching these matches will give them an understanding of what to anticipate in the upcoming season which starts in January when India plays the FIH Hockey Pro League.