Lausanne, Switzerland, September 10, 2019: In a favourable draw, India’s men’s hockey team was pitted against lower-ranked Russia while the women’s team drew a tricky USA in the final round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifiers.
While the five continental winners achieved direct qualification for the Olympics, the seven qualifying events in October-November this year will complete the 12 participants each for men and women competitions in Tokyo.
Olympic hosts Japan won both gold medals, men and women, at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, resulting in no direct qualification for another Asian team.
Eight-time Olympic champions India are ranked fifth in the world – the highest Asian team and their best ranking since 2012 - while the Russians are placed 22 in the International Hockey Federation rankings. India had mauled Russia 10-0 during the FIH Series final in Bhubaneswar earlier this year.
“We are committed to achieving Olympic qualification and in that pursuit we continue to emphasise on improving our defence,” said India men’s hockey team coach Graham Reid.
It will be tougher for the Rani Rampal-led women’s team, with the Americans ranked 13th, four places behind ninth-ranked India. The two teams played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw in their last meeting at the Women’s World Cup in London last year.
By virtue of their higher rankings, both Indian teams will play as hosts at Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium. The matches will be played on November 1 and 2.
Asia’s other top-ranked men’s teams, Malaysia (11th), South Korea (16th) and Pakistan (17th) were drawn against Great Britain, New Zealand (9th) and Netherlands (3rd) respectively and will their work cut out qualifying. Great Britain does not have an FIH ranking but England are ranked 7th in the world.
In the women’s qualifying race, China (10th) were drawn to meet Belgium (12th) while South Korea (11th) take on Spain (7th).
Along with Japan, the other continental winners who have already booked there berths are Argentina, South Africa, Belgium and Australia in the men’s competition; and Argentina, South Africa, Netherlands and New Zealand in the women’s competition.
1. Germany v Austria
2. India v Russia
3. Netherlands v Pakistan
4. Spain v France
5. Canada v Ireland
6. Great Britain v Malaysia
7. New Zealand v Korea
1. Germany v Italy
2. Australia v Russia
3. Great Britain v Chile
4. India v USA
5. China v Belgium
6. Ireland v Canada
7. Spain v Korea