Incheon: The Indian women's hockey squad is commencing its Asian Games campaign here on Monday, hoping to get into the medal bracket once again when they take on Thailand in their Group A opener at the Soenhak Stadium.
India are pooled with three-time defending champions China, Malaysia and Thailand and are expected to win the matches against the last two teams which will ensure their berth in the semis, their first aim.
With vice captain Deepika at the helm of defense and captain Ritu Rani guiding the others from midfield, it is being hoped that forwards Rani, Poonam Rani, Vandana Katariya and Navjot Kaur would be speedy and thrustful to break open rival defense and create opportunities to score.
Thailand may not be a top team but the Indians need a big win under their belt to start their run in the tournament on an emphatic note. India had thrashed their South East Asian rivals 13-0 when they last met four years ago in the Games at Guangzhou, China.
Chief coach Neil Hawgood said that all the players were eager to start on a winning note after a sound build-up to the tournament.
"The girls are looking forward to starting the competition after being here now for seven days and are very keen to play the first match and start it with a win. We have had a good build-up here and are ready to start with a strong performance against Thailand.
"The aim is to build pressure on the opponents from the start of the game and keep scoring which will force them to play defensive."
Captain Ritu Rani also emphasised one the need to start with a victory.
"We are excited and confident. We will win and will look at continuing the form in all the matches during the tournament. We are confident of reaching the finals and that is our aim as of now. I am looking at drag-flicker Jaspreet Kaur to give us the edge over the opponents with her brilliant penalty corner conversions."
After tomorrow, India take on title favourites China on September 24 before finishing their league phase with a match against Malaysia on September 26.