India captain Sardar aims for gold at Incheon
NEW DELHI (AP) — India captain Sardar Singh says they fancy their chances of winning the field hockey gold medal at the Asian Games next month and claiming direct entry into the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.
Their confidence comes from having done better than other Asian teams this year at the World Cup and Commonwealth Games, Sardar said on Thursday, after being retained as captain.
India defeated South Korea 3-0 in the playoff for ninth place in the World Cup at the Netherlands, and was the best-placed Asian team, as Malaysia finished 12th and Pakistan did not qualify for the tournament.
At the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, India lost 4-0 to Australia in the final. Pakistan did not field a team due to a split in its national Olympic association while Malaysia failed to make the semifinals.
“We have an edge over Pakistan because they have not played these big tournaments,” Sardar said. “Our league match against Pakistan on Sept. 25 is important but we will take it match by match and ensure we don’t concede goals in the dying minutes, which has been a problem for us.
“We understand (victory) won’t be easy since the winner qualifies for the Olympics and everyone will come prepared.”
China, Oman and Sri Lanka are also in India’s group, while the other group comprises South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and Bangladesh.
India coach Terry Walsh was also confident, but said the first aim was to qualify for the semifinals.
“We’ve a very good chance but we do not know what Korea and Pakistan are doing,” the Australian said. “We should play the semifinals and hopefully play a good final because we have improved a lot since the Commonwealth Games.”
At the Asian Games, defending champion Pakistan has won eight times, and India only twice - in 1966 and 1998, both times in Bangkok. India failed to qualify for the semifinals at Doha in 2006 and finished third at Guangzhou in 2010.
The Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, begin on Sept. 19.
India: Goalkeeper: P.R. Sreejesh; Defenders: Gurbaj Singh, Birendra Lakra, Rupinder Pal Singh, Kothajit Singh, V.R. Raghunath; Midfielders: Dharamvir Singh, Sardar Singh (captain), Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet Singh; Forwards: Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, S.V. Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi, Nikkin Thimmaiah.