All eyes are set on the number one status in the continent as India will face a tricky opener against Japan in the Asia Cup men’s hockey match tomorrow.
The Asia Cup will be the beginning of journey for the new Indian hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne and it will definitely be a test for his waters. It would be an arduous task for the 43-year-old Marijne to fill in the big shoes of Reolant Oltmans, who made a significant contribution to Indian hockey in his four-year tenure, lifting the Asian powerhouse from 12th to 6th in the world rankings. In the previous edition, Indian team had achieved the runners up position and is now eyeing for the perfect start in Pool A which also includes Bangladesh and Pakistan. Whereas Pool B includes defending champions like Korea, Malaysia, China and minnows Oman.
In hockey, the opening game always holds greater significance for any team and India too would be hoping for a positive start against Japan; before their clashes with Bangladesh and Pakistan on October 13 and 15 respectively. Winning the Asia Cup will prove India’s supremacy in the game across the continent and will make India No 1 in Asia. The Indian hockey team, being the best-ranked compared to others, will have to win the game with all the sweat and blood because opener games are very important for further performance of the team.
Although the Indian team has faced Japanese team at Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year, and won by 4-3; but underestimating the efficiency of Japanese team will be unwise. The Japanese have shown in the past that they have the ability to play fast-paced hockey with good attacks, making them an unpredictable team. Because in the very same Sultan Cup, the Japanese team had beat reigning world champion team of Australia by 3-2. On the other hand, Indian team has a good blend of young as well as experienced players – who are all enthusiastic and prepared for the big game. This match will also define efficiency of new coach and will help the team which will be facing other high-profile international tournaments like Hockey World League Final, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Cup. So Chak de India.