Bhubaneswar: Asian Games champion Japan started their Tokyo Olympics preparations in the right earnest, beating Mexico 3-1 in their opening match of the FIH Series Finals hockey tournament, while Russia thrashed Uzbekistan 12-1 in another match here Friday.
Having already qualified for the Olympics being the hosts as well as continental champions, Japan are taking this tournament as a preparation for the quadrennial event.
And world No 18 Japan's campaign got off to a perfect start when Hirotaka Zendana (3rd, 34th minutes) converted two penalty corners while Shota Yamada (21st) scored from a penalty stroke to emerge winners in the Pool B encounter.
But Japan were in for an early shock when Erik Hernandez gave world no. 39 Mexico the lead as early as in the third minute.
The lead, however, was shortlived as within seconds Zendana struck from Japan's first penalty corner to draw level.
Therefater, the Japanese slowly and steadily got their footing in the match and controlled the proceedings.
Japan will play South Africa in their next match Saturday, while Mexico will be up against USA.
Later in the day, world no. 22 Russia, which lost 0-10 against India Thursday, spanked world no. 43 Uzbekistan 12-1 in a lopsided Pool A match.
Semen Matkovskiy (13th, 17th, 26th, 44th, 48th minutes) scored five goals, while Alexander Skiperskiy (15th, 22nd), Sergey Lepeshkin (19th), Alexey Sobolevskiy (22nd), Mikhail Proskuriakov (36th), Marat Khairullin (40th) and Denis Starienko (59th) were the other goal getters for Russia.
For Uzbekistan, Khakimboy Khakimov (29th) scored the consolation goal.
Russia will play Poland in their final pool match on Sunday, while Uzbekistan will be up against India on 10 June.
The top two teams of the ongoing FIH Series Finals will seal their berths in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers to be held in October-November this year.
Updated Date: Jun 07, 2019 20:48:43 IST