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Indian men and women’s hockey teams leave for 18th Asian Games

Winning a gold will help forget the bitter memories of World Cup, says Rani

Eyeing qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams left for the Asian Games with hopes of winning gold medals.

While the 18-member women’s team will begin its campaign against Indonesia in a Pool-B clash on August 19, the men will begin their title defence against the same opponent a day later.

About improving on the bronze at the last Asiad, the women’s team captain Rani said: “We are going into the Games after a strong performance in the World Cup and it has given us a lot of confidence.” Though we were disappointed that we did not make the semifinal, winning a gold in the Asian Games will help forget the bitter memories of the World Cup.”

The women’s team will face Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Indonesia and will have to finish in the top-two to make the semifinals.

The men’s team, grouped with Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong will aim to defend the title.

“We had a good lead-up to the Games with a high-intensity training camp in Bengaluru. We also did well in the practice matches against Bangladesh, Korea and New Zealand, where we wanted to implement certain changes in goal-scoring positions within the striking circle as that was one of the areas we fell behind in the FIH Champions Trophy 2018.

Men’s skipper P.R. Sreejesh said: “We need to execute perfectly in every game and return home with the gold.”

On India’s toughest opponent, Sreejesh said, “no team can be taken lightly because every one will come with the mindset of winning and getting direct qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.

“However, I feel that with the potential we have in the current team, we will be fighting to better our own performance and ensure we play like a champion squad.”

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