After guiding the team to its second successive silver medal at Champions trophy, chief coach Harendra Singh is now eyeing a gold medal at Asian games to secure direct qualification for 2020 Tokyo Olympics and also start the preparations for the Hockey World Cup which will be held in India, later this year. He also hopes that the team can achieve top three rankings at the end of the year.
“In the last couple of years we have proved to the world that India is back on the hockey map. We are number five in the world but by the end of the year we want to be in top 3 in the world,” Harendra told PTI as reported by Times of India.
“The Asian Games is the first step towards achieving that goal. We want to have a shot at the podium in 2020 Tokyo and the Asian Games will set the tone for our preparation towards that.”
Harendra agreed that 2018 is an important year for the team and he wants to create a legacy by the end of the year. He said that the team will not settle for anything less than winning its second consecutive gold at Asiad.
“We can’t think of anything less than a gold. It is not acceptable. But we have to prove ourselves on the pitch in each and every match,” Harendra said who coached Indian junior team to lift the 2016 Junior hockey world cup in Lucknow to break the 15 year jinx.
He said a top honour at Asiad will ensure that the team qualifies for the next Olympics and they will get one year and eleven months for the preparation.
India won silver at the final edition of Hockey Champions trophy which was held at Breda, Netherlands. India lost to Australia 3-1 yet again in the penalty shootout to finish as runner-up.
“We are a much better team now. We have worked out on the mistakes which we committed in the Champions Trophy, like positioning inside the circle and penalty corner conversions and defence,” said Harendra who overtook as coach of the national team for fourth time after former coach Sjoerd Marjine was criticized and removed after team’s medal-less campaign at Gold Coast Commonwealth games.
India will start their campaign against minnows Hong Kong on August 22. The PR Sreejesh led team is placed in Pool A alongside Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. India are the highest ranked team in the pool.