Zeenews Sports Bureau
New Delhi: Stage is set for Team India’s big test and the coach Michael Nobbs.
India start the tournament at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium as favourites and they can’t afford to lose out on yet another Olympic berth after the Beijing embarrassment. For the eight time Olympic gold medallists, this is right time to bring back the game’s lost glory by winning in front of the home crowd.
India playing at home is the biggest advantage for the host team to book a berth in the 2012 London Olympics. And the fact that the participating teams who will battle it out for a spot in the Olympics are weaker than India is an added advantage. India team, ranked 10th in the world, is the highest ranked team in the tournament.
Hence, the Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Delhi will be ultimate test for Bharat Chetri and men. Fortunately, Team India’s opponents in the qualifiers are lower ranked compare to India - Canada (ranked 14), Italy (28), Poland (19), France (18) and Singapore (41).
India’s first two games are against two teams India have never lost Singapore and Italy respectively. Out of 13 games India played against Singapore, the former emerged victorious in all occasions. Similarly, India have a clean record against Italy as well - 14 win out of 14 games.
The strongest among the lot, Canada won only seven times against India’s 22 wins. India have a good record against France too. Out of 38 games, India Won 27 times and drew 8.
No wonder why Indian captain Bharat Chetri considers India’s first outings as “training sessions” for the team. According to him, it will give India a chance to judge their strengths and weaknesses before the tougher matches in the later stages.
However, Gurbaj Singh’s absence due to a knee injury is a big concern for Team India given the fact that the centre half has been the architect of several crucial wins in the recent past. Gurbaj Singh had suffered an injury during the Test series against South Africa last month.