Muscat (Oman): Determined to regain pride after a below-par showing at the 2018 Asian Games, the Indian men's hockey team will look to make a solid start when they clash with hosts Oman in the Asian Champions Trophy opener on Thursday.
The Indian team was favourite to win gold in Jakarta but had to settle for a bronze after a disappointing loss to Malaysia in the semi-finals.
World No. 5 India go into the tournament as the highest-ranked Asian nation and tackling Oman should not be problem for the side at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.
India beat Oman 7-0 when the two teams met the last time during the 2014 Asian Games and coach Harendra Singh believes that facing the hosts will be a good test for his team ahead of other crucial round-robin matches.
"We are very excited to start our campaign against the hosts Oman, who will be playing in front of their home crowd. The opening match will be a good test for us ahead of some crucial pool matches against the likes of Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan and South Korea," Harendra said.
"It is important for us to the start the competition by doing the basics right and producing our best performance in order to build momentum for the upcoming fixtures."
India go into the tournament as defending champions, having won the 2016 edition by defeating Pakistan 3-2 in the final in Kuantan, Malaysia.
But Harendra believes his team needs to keep errors to the minimum if it has to lift the trophy again.
"We know that we have a good team which is capable of defeating any country in the world, but sometimes things do not go your way. Therefore, it is important for the unit to keep focus throughout the sixty minutes and not give the opponents any chances," he said.
"We have to make sure that we have improved from the mistakes we committed at the Asian Games, and this tournament gives us the perfect opportunity to regain confidence ahead of the World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
”Our immediate aim is to qualify for the semi-finals of the competition and the team will work hard to achieve that."
After playing Oman in the first match, India will face arch-rivals Pakistan on October 20, Japan on October 21, Malaysia on October 23 and South Korea on October 24.
The last edition of the tournament saw India remain undefeated as they beat Japan 10-2, drew 1-1 with South Korea, beat Pakistan 3-2, China 9-0 and Malaysia 2-1 in the pool stages.
In the semi-finals, India had beaten South Korea 5-4 in a penalty shootout.
India and Pakistan have both clinched the title twice each and will be looking to win a record third time when the tournament.
India had clinched the title in the inaugural edition in 2011 as well as in 2016, whereas Pakistan won the 2012 and 2013 editions.