India Men's Hockey Team prepares for Olympics 2024 with South Africa tour
With just over six months left before the start of the 2024 Paris Olympics, the Indian Men's Hockey Team is set to compete in a series of preparatory matches in Cape Town, South Africa, between January 22-28, against France which is at 9th position, South Africa which is at 13 th position globally and world number one Netherlands.
The Indian Men's Hockey Team, led by Captain Harmanpreet Singh and Vice-Captain Hardik Singh, will face France twice on January 22 and January 24. Then, India will play the hosts South Africa on January 26 and finish the tour with a match against the Netherlands on January 28, as per a Hockey India press release.
The Indian men's hockey team will also be competing in the FIH Men's Hockey Pro League 2023/24 matches against Spain, The Netherlands, Australia and Ireland next month in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. Indian skipper Harmanpreet Singh addressed the importance of the South Africa tour and said, "With the FIH Men's Hockey Pro League 2023/24 next month and the Paris Olympics 2024 just around the corner, it is crucial for our team to get as much game time that we can get so that we are in the correct mindset for the coming season."
Indian Men's Hockey Team is returning to action with this tour after playing 5 Nations Tournament Valencia 2023 in December, where India won only one game in four encounters. India lost 0-1 to Spain, followed by a 2-7 defeat to Belgium, and a 2-3 loss to Germany. But the side bounced back in their last game on the tour, defeating France 5-4.
"We are constantly looking to improve as a team and have worked on key areas in the training camp. Now, it is important for us to test our strategies and player combinations against strong opponents. We will look to play the style of hockey that we want to play on the tour so that we can work on the aspects of the game where we need to rectify in the coming months," Harmanpreet added.
The Indian Team boasts of a solid record against France with three wins in their last four official games since 2013. Their previous official match was at the 2021/22 FIH Men's Hockey Pro League which ended with France winning the game 5-2. India also enjoyed a good record against South Africa, having won all their seven games since 2014. Their last meeting was at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023, which India won 5-2.
Against the Netherlands, India has maintained an almost even record as well, with 7 wins, 9 losses and 2 draws since 2013. India faced the Dutch side last time at the 2023 4 Nations Men's Invitational Tournament in Barcelona and picked up a 2-1 win.
Talking about their opponents on the tour, Vice-Captain Hardik Singh said, "The best thing about world hockey at the moment is that all the teams are equally capable and have a strong set of players. Any team is capable of winning against any team at the moment - and the tour is a good chance for us to study and learn from three teams that we might have to face at the 2024 Paris Olympics, including the very strong Dutch team. Hence, we will not take any opponents lightly and will look to get positive results, and make the most of the experience we gain from the tour."
A 26-member squad is travelling to South Africa and youngsters Araijeet Singh Hundal and Boby Singh Dhami have also been given an opportunity following impressive outings with the Junior team.
"The tour is also an opportunity for us to test our bench strength before the FIH Men's Hockey Pro League next month. We have a good squad of experienced individuals and young blood, and they are all raring to go and prove themselves. We are excited to show what we are capable of and our team will play with a positive mindset," Hardik signed off.
The Indian Men's Hockey team will begin their South African tour against France on January 22 at 1430hrs IST.