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New Delhi, January 2, 2020
Putting behind the disappointments and setbacks of the Asian Games and the World Cup, the Indian Men's Hockey team came up with some sterling performances in 2019 and achieved their main objective of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
Having achieved that target, the team is now focused on performing well in the Olympics. "I think the year 2019 was full of positives. Our single most important target was to make the Olympic qualification and in that pursuit we improved collectively as a team and performed consistently," skipper Manpreet Singh was quoted as saying.
"I think retaining our World Ranking (No. 5) was also a morale boost," the skipper said, adding that the increase in number of players who are of international standards was also another big positive for the team in year gone by.
"We saw quite a few youngsters play their first international match. It is good to have a strong pool of players who have the capabilities of handling the pressure at international level. This is an advantage especially now when we play back-to-back FIH Hockey Pro League matches," he added.
Elaborating on the team's goal for this year, the skipper said, "Our immediate target is to do well in the FIH Hockey Pro League. We are chalking out stretegies and plans with the Chief Coach as what we need to do to win against teams like the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia who we play against in January and February."
"We have six months to prepare for the Olympics and the plan is to get better and better each day, in each session we train. Under Chief Coach Graham Reid there is already a solid process in place and we just need to keep at it and I am sure the result will follow. The team strongly believes we have a good shot at finishing Top 4 at the Tokyo Olympics and once we make the semi-final, it can be anybody's game there onwards," he said.
Having won back-to-back Asian Champions Trophy in 2016 and 2018, the team will aim to claim the title for the third time in a row when the bi-annual tournament returns in 2020. "It is definitely on our mind to defend the Asian Champions Trophy title. It will be sweet to make it a hat-trick but we would like to take it step by step, tournament by tournament," he concluded.