New Delhi: The Indian men's hockey team will take on New Zealand in their opening match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics while the women's team will play Rio Olympics silver medallists Netherlands on July 25 as the draw for the quadrennial extravaganza was announced on Tuesday in Tokyo.
Speaking about the draw, Indian Men's hockey team skipper Manpreet Singh said: "A good start will always give the right confidence and momentum to carry on in the tournament so it will be important for us to begin with a win. New Zealand have always posed stiff competition for us and I believe it can be a close game," stated Manpreet, adding that the team will need to control their nerves. "It is important to keep our nerves in check as opening matches can be a bit overwhelming especially at a major event like the Olympics."
The men's team, who have been clubbed with defending Olympic champions Argentina, world no.1 Australia, Spain, New Zealand and hosts Japan in Pool A, will play their second match against the formidable Australian side on July 26 and then Spain in their third pool A match on July 28. After a day's break on July 29, they will take on Argentina on July 30 and then play hosts Japan on July 31.
The men's quarter-finals have been slated for August 2 while the semi-finals will be held on August 4. The gold medal and bronze medal matches will be played on August 6. "Every game will be crucial at the Olympics and we cannot let our guard down against any team even if they are ranked below us. The competition will be so high that each match will need to be played like it's the final," Manpreet said.
Meanwhile, the Indian women's team skipper Rani Rampal said: "Draw does not matter because in the Olympics every team is equal and every team will come to the Olympics with an aim to win. As a team, we need to focus on ourselves and what we can do better on the given day. We are preparing well to ensure we tick all the boxes in each of our matches and put all the energy into every game we play and give our best to the blue shirt if we want to see ourselves in the quarter finals and semi finals."
The women's team are grouped in Pool A along with the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa. They will take on Germany in their second Pool A match on July 27 followed by a match against defending champions Great Britain on July 29. They will then play Ireland on July 31 and then face South Africa in their last Pool A match on August 1.
The quarter-finals will be held on August 3 while the semi-final will be held on August 5. The gold medal and bronze medal match will be held on August 7.