The Asian Games have been a happy hunting ground for Indian hockey. The men have won a medal in every edition barring 2006 since the sport was included in the programme in 1958.
While the gold has come only thrice, including in the previous edition in 2014, the Indian men have finished runners-up nine times — seven times to Pakistan. The women, though, have won the title only once, in the inaugural edition in 1982. Since then, Korea and China have dominated the proceedings, with a runners-up finish for India and three bronze medals.
As the highest ranked Asian team in the world, the Indian men’s team is clearly the favourite on paper to defend its title. But Pakistan has seen a revival in the past few months and, going by its performance in the recent Champions Trophy, it will not be a cakewalk for India.
Korea and Malaysia are also not likely to be easy to beat, but India’s biggest concern will be its own inconsistency and complacency than anything else.
For the women, it will be a tougher outing against the likes of China, Japan and Korea — all ranked higher than India. But the side did manage to beat them all twice in recent times — at the Asia Cup and the Asian Champions Trophy — and that will give it confidence. However, the girls’s performance in the World Cup, where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals, won’t help their morale.
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