Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Indian hockey team aiming for Asiad gold with an eye on London

Indian hockey
GUANGZHOU: More than weighing the positive effects of a tournament win, India will be looking at the long-term prospect re-entering the Olympic fold that they had been rudely pushed out of by Great Britain in 2008 when they begin their hockey campaign at the Asian Games on Monday.

More than the loss to Great Britain in Santiago, what will haunt them as they take on Hong Kong in the opening match is that it was the Asian Games of Doha in 2006 where the first seeds of destruction had been sowed.

It was here that India had, for the first time in the history of the continental Games, failed to qualify for the semifinals, ending all chances of a direct berth from Asia.

The qualifying tournament in Santiago was only another reminder that Indian hockey hadn't done its homework against top teams which had obviously burnt midnight oil to shape their strategies against India.

Two years later, the fall from grace in Doha and the subsequent ouster in Chile continues to haunt national coach Harendra Singh.

Harendra, who was V Bhaskaran's assistant in Doha, wants to erase those memories with a title victory. "Tomorrow's game is important to us. Games such as these help us get a good goal tally which becomes important when goal difference comes into play. Having said that, we are not complacent against Hong Kong. We treat every game equally," Harendra said.

The victory in the Pool B match against Hong Kong on Monday may be just an appetiser as India have tougher contests against Pakistan and Japan coming up in the subsequent days.

Pakistan have lost two big matches to India at the World Cup and Commonwealth Games and will be looking forward to avenging the defeat. Japan too have improved a lot in recent years and should emerge as the dark horse in the group.

"If we win the gold here, it will be a big dream come true for India. We participated in the London Olympics as independent India for the first time in 1948. We will be returning with a great deal of assurance to London in 2012 if we succeed in Guangzhou," said Harendra.

Monday's match: India vs Hong Kong 12 noon (IST).

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