The men's FIH Series Finals is set to begin from 6 June with Indian hockey team participating in the tournament along with seven other nations. The matches will take place in Bhubaneswar at the Kalinga Stadium where last year's World Cup took place.
Recently-appointed head coach of the Indian team Graham Reid will aim to ensure India, who are ranked fifth, reaches at least the final, thereby making it to the final round of 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers. Manpreet Singh will lead India's campaign in Bhubaneswar with striker Ramandeep Singh returning to the side after nearly a year following a knee injury that almost jeopardised his career.
The tournament will serve as first real test for Australian Reid, who was appointed as Harendra Singh's successor in April this year following India's dismal World Cup campaign in December last year.
Ahead of the tournament, India captain Manpreet said, "Our finishing has been a concern and in the past three weeks here we have been working on our finishing skills. We also need to avoid committing mistakes in the later stages of the match. We need to be cautious and avoid conceding goals in the last minutes. But we are prepared and confident of finishing at the top."
The eight teams have been divided into two pools. India are the highest ranked nation in the tournament followed by South Africa who are ranked 16 and Japan occupying the 18th spot. Poland, who finished fourth at 1980 Olympics, are ranked 21 while the next best is Russia who are a place below Poland. The last three ranked teams are USA - 25, Mexico - 39 and Uzbekistan - 43.
Pool A: India, Poland, Russia, Uzbekistan
Pool B: Japan, Mexico, South Africa, United States
Clearly, India are favourites to win the tournament considering the wide gap in terms of rankings. South Africa, coached by Garreth Ewing and Siegfried Aikman's Japan are also strong contenders to qualify for the final.
Each team will play their opponents from the same pool once and the top ranked team after all three matches will directly qualify for the semi-finals. The second and third placed teams from both the pools will play crossover matches and the two winners will enter the semi-final. The winners of both the semi-final will then battle for the title, and as finalists in the tournament, they would've qualified for the final Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualification round.
Schedule (Timings in IST)
South Africa vs United States at 8.45 am
Poland vs Uzbekistan at 5 pm
India vs Russia at 7 pm
Japan vs Mexico at 8.45 am
Russia vs Uzbekistan at 5 pm
India vs Poland at 7 pm
United States vs Mexico at 5 pm
Japan vs South Africa at 7 pm
Russia vs Poland at 5 pm
United States vs Japan at 8.45 am
South Africa vs Mexico at 5 pm
India vs Uzbekistan at 7 pm
For 7th/8th place - 4th Pool A vs 4th Pool B at 8.45 am
Crossover 1 - 2nd Pool A vs 3rd Pool B at 5 pm
Crossover 2 - 2nd Pool B vs 2nd Pool A at 7.15 pm
For 5th/6th place - Loser of crossover 1 vs loser of crossover 2 at 8.45 pm
Semifinal 1 - 1st Pool A vs Winner of crossover 2 match at 5 pm
Semifinal 2 - 1st Pool B vs Winner of crossover 1 at 7.15 pm
3rd/4th place match at 5 pm
Final at 7.15 pm
Japan, being the host country of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, have already qualified for the big event next year. So if they finish in the top two at Bhubaneswar, only one team would make it to the final round of the qualifications. From the other 11 teams who will eventually qualify, five countries will make the cut on the basis of winning their respective continental championships which also includes Japan since they had won the gold medal in men's event at Asian Games and that opens a seventh spot from the Olympic Qualifiers.
The Olympic Qualifiers or the final round will see 14 teams – the top six teams from three FIH Series Finals, the top four teams from FIH Pro League and top four ranked teams which did not play in either tournaments – playing for the remaining seven places. Each team will play the other over two legs and a country with the highest goals over these two matches will qualify for the Olympics.
For a more detailed explanation on the qualification scenarios, click here.
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Updated Date: Jun 05, 2019 17:55:22 IST