HWL Final: Chance for teams to assess Olympic preparations
Sardar Singh says India's target is to play best hockey here in HWL.
Raipur: Their berths in next year's Olympics secured, all the eight participating teams in the Hockey World League Final are looking at the elite tournament as a platform to assess their strengths and weaknesses with little over nine months left for the Rio Games.
The HWL Final will kickstart at the newly-built Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Stadium here from Friday with hosts India taking on Argentina in the lung-opener.
Besides world no. 6 India and Pan-American champions Argentina, other participating teams in the tournament are world champions Australia, defending champions Netherlands, European heavyweights Germany, Belgium and Great Britain along with Canada.
And for all the competing teams, the HWL Final is a perfect launchpad to prepare themselves ahead of the big ticket event, the Olympics.
"Our target is to play the best hockey here. We have improved as a team but we need to grow more as a unit. So our target will be to improve ourselves going into Rio," Sardar said during an interaction with reporters where all the eight captains of the participating teams were present.
"It will be a tough competition. There will be tough challenge for every side because world's best teams will be fighting it out at the pitch. The good thing is that you will get such tough matches in Olympics," he said.
World no. 1 Australia skipper Mark Knowles too opined with Sardar.
"It is going to be a very good show here because top eight teams of the world will be playing here. It is an important tournament for us because we don't get to play big nations quite often. So going towards Rio it is a very vital tournament for all," Knowles said.
British skipper Dan Fox aired similar feelings and said for all the teams their main target in this tournament is to assess their preparation ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Games.
"Top eight teams of the world are playing in this tournament and all have qualified for Olympics. So, the main target of all the teams will be to prepare itself ahead of Rio," Fox said.
Canada captain Scott Tupper added, "The tournament is very important for us. We are treating it as our preparation for road to Rio."
Germany skipper Moritz Furste too knows the significance of the HWL Final but said Rio is not on their minds at the moment.
"We know it is a big tournament ahead of the Olympics but to be honest we are not thinking much about our performance in Rio now," Furste said.
India are placed in a tough Pool B along side Argentina, Germany and Netherlands while Pool A consists of Australia, Belgium, Great Britain and Canada.
The HWL Final will be played at the newly-constructed stadium here from November 27 to December 6.