Bhubaneswar: With their sights set on a top 2 finish which enables them to make the next round of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualification, all eight participating teams — Mexico, USA, Russia, Uzbekistan, Poland, South Africa, Japan and hosts India expressed their readiness to face stiff competition at the FIH Men’s Series Finals Bhubaneswar Odisha 2019 to begin on Thursday, 6 June 2019 at the iconic Kalinga Hockey Stadium.
Speaking at the all-Captains Press Conference on Tuesday, Japan’s Captain, who have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics as 2018 Asian Games winners, said: “Even though we have won the Asian Games and qualified for the Olympics, we want to win this tournament to gain world ranking points. That’s very important for us as it decides which pool we will play in at the Tokyo Olympics,” stated Manabu Yamashita.
Meanwhile, highest ranked in the tournament India too have to guard themselves of complacency and ensure they finish the tournament on a high. “After our Australia tour, when we assessed our performance we collective felt that our finishing needed improvement. The past three weeks in Bhubaneswar has been very important for us in terms of getting these aspects right. We have also been working on different variations in PCs having three good dragflickers on our side. We are ready for the tournament and expect every team to give a good fight as all of us are eyeing the Olympics,” stated India Skipper Manpreet Singh.
The Polish who last played at the 2000 Sydney Olympics would like to bring back their glory days. The team’s goalkeeper Mateusz Popiolkowski said, “It was 19 years ago since we last played at the Olympics and definitely we want to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But for now our aim is do well in the group stage and make it to the knockouts. That’s our immediate goal and we will try to play our best hockey.”
South Africa who were here in Bhubaneswar for the Men’s World Cup emphasized that they want to compensate for a poor outing in December last year where they were knocked out in the Round Robin Stage. “The World Cup was not a good outing for us because as per our world ranking, we should have finished at least in No.8 – No.12 position but there were a lot of positives we have taken from that event and the team is confident of a good show here because we are familiar with this atmosphere, the stadium and the crowd and would like to use it to our advantage,” stated the team’s goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse.
Meanwhile, Russia who take on World No.5 India in their first match on Thursday said it was an honour to play India in their first match. “India is an excellent team and it is an absolute honour for us to play the hosts in our first match. We have watched the World Cup matches here and the crowds turn out in full support of the team. We are looking forward to experience that feeling and hope to give it our best,” Pavel Golubev of Russia.
USA Skipper Ajai Dhadwal said his team’s fitness will be an X-factor in doing well at this tournament. “We are a team that pays a lot of attention to our fitness and I believe this will be one of the factors that will help us succeed. Though we are an inexperienced team, we do have that firepower in us to create some upset wins and we sure want to be a serious contender for the top 2 finish,” stated the Indian-origin Skipper from the USA.
Uzbekistan’s Captain Golib Kalandarov and Mexico’s Miguel Leon too expressed their excitement to take part in this crucial tournament in the Olympic Qualification pathway.