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Champions Trophy: How Ready Is the Indian Hockey Team
Indian men's hockey team. (Getty Images)
If the Indian men's hockey team can string together some degree of consistency from now to Rio in August, the possibilities of a bright show at the Olympics will increase manifold.
There are two months before the biggest sports party begins in Brazil, which makes every competitive opportunity in the run-up a vital step.
On that road, India will reach London in a few days' time for the Champions Trophy where they will meet world champions Australia, defending Olympics champions Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and South Korea.
The June 10-17 event will be closely watched and keenly contested, and each member of the touring squad will be eagle-eyed by the Hockey India selectors. While that brings pressure, it also provides an opportunity to come out and put up a lion-hearted performance.
So at this juncture, what's going through the players' minds before they take the flight to London, especially when seniors like captain Sardar Sing and Rupinderpal Singh have been rested for the Champions Trophy?
"Ever since the Asian Games Gold in 2014, the team has started to believe in itself again. We never wanted to come down from that stage and only wanted to climb up. We had a ranking of 12-13 before 2014, but recently we were placed No. 6 and currently we are ranked No.7 in the world
No opponent takes us lightly anymore and they talk about us as a team that does well in knockouts. I believe we have a bright chance and we are moving in the right direction for the coming tournaments."
"Earlier, we would make visible mistakes but now that has been rectified and we have been paying a lot of attention to details, how to create situations, making set pieces and also trying out new tactics that we will try in the tournaments to follow."
"Last time [London 2012], we paid more attention to fitness; but this time it is very different. We are paying attention to overall development as a team and the training has a lot to do with discipline and team spirit, which I think has helped us on the field and in understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses.
The approach we have for the Olympics this time is far more systematic and I feel we are on the right track," the 27-year-old striker from Coorg added."
“Doing well [in Champions Trophy] is important for us as it will show where we stand in the lead-up to the Olympics. It will give us an opportunity to test the latest tactics we have been working on in the camp.
The Champions Trophy will give us an opportunity to correct those mistakes and assess where we need to further improve."
Coach: Roelant Oltmans
"Defence is the key to a team's success at a tournament. There are times when you can't score too many goals to win a match but you can certainly win by avoiding the opponents to score.
Everybody knows we are good in the knockout stage, but Champions Trophy this year will be slightly different and we need to finish top two to play the final and be top four to play for bronze. It will be interesting to see how our players will cope to this situation and face the challenge.
Our realistic expectation is to finish in the top three."
(Quotes Courtesy: PTI)
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