Harendra: ‘Asiad success key to World Cup podium dreams’

The men’s team coach said India will settle for nothing less than defending its title in the Games, but admitted it is easier said than done.

Harendra Singh hopes to emulate the 2014 feat.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Indian men’s hockey team coach Harendra Singh is chasing a second successive Asian Games gold not just to secure qualification to the 2020 Olympics, but also kick-start preparations for the year-end World Cup, where he is eyeing a podium.

“In the last couple of years we have proved to the world that India is back on the hockey map. We are number five in the world but by the end of the year we want to be in top 3 in the world,” Harendra told PTI during an interview before leaving for Jakarta.

“The Asian Games is the first step towards achieving that goal. We want to have a shot at the podium in 2020 Tokyo and the Asian Games will set the tone for our preparation towards that.”

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Harendra, who took over the reigns of the senior men’s national team for a fourth time in May this year, wants his wards to create a legacy by the end of 2018 and, according to him, the Asiad is the first step towards attaining that.

“2018 is a very important year for us and I want this team to create a legacy by the end of the year. I want this team to be remembered for what they achieved on the pitch,” said the master tactician, under whose tutelage India broke a 15-year jinx by lifting the Junior World Cup in 2016.

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The coach said India will settle for nothing less than defending its title in the Games, but admitted it is easier said than done.

“We can’t think of anything less than a gold. It is not acceptable. But we have to prove ourselves on the pitch in each and every match,” Harendra said.

“A gold here will make us the first team to qualify for the 2020 Olympics and we will get one year and 11 months to prepare ourselves.”

Since taking over the charge in his current tenure, Harendra has already achieved success as India finished runner-up in the final edition of the Champions Trophy in Breda, Netherlands earlier this year.

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India again finished second best after losing 1-3 in shoot-off against Australia. But Harendra said the team is prepared after ironing out the flaws it committed in the Champions Trophy.

“We are a much better team now. We have worked out on the mistakes which we committed in the Champions Trophy, like positioning inside the circle and penalty corner conversions and defence,” he said.

Harendra doesn’t want to talk about opponents. “Other teams doesn’t matter to me. I don’t like to talk about other teams. I believe in doing my own job,” he said.

India has been placed in Pool A in men’s hockey competition at the Games alongside Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong China.

Overwhelming favourite India will open its campaign against Hong Kong China on August 22.

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