Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Scenarios for India to reach Tokyo 2020

After India men's and women's hockey teams recorded wins in the first leg of the Olympic Qualifiers, the tie is not yet over.

Indian men's team won by 4-2 in the first leg against Russia, but the job is half done.   -  Biswaranjan rout

On Friday, Indian men's hockey team beat world No. 19 Russia, the lowly ranked team in the Olympic Qualifiers, 4-2 in the first-leg at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. The women's team, led by its mercurial captain Rani Rampal, put world No. 13 USA to the sword in a 5-1 rout on Friday.

However, India is not guaranteed a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, yet. The International Hockey Federation introduced a new system for the Olympic Qualifiers for Tokyo 2020, where teams will play a two-legged tie hosted by the higher-ranked team over two days and the team with the highest goals aggregate will qualify.

Both the men's team, ranked No. 5 and the women's team, ranked 9th in the world, have experience and home advantage on their side. However, playing two matches with less than 24 hours to recover, teams need to overcome fatigue and come up with a new gameplan for the second leg.

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Indian men's team picked up a 4-2 win over Russia, but could be in deep trouble if the Russians win Saturday's second leg 2-0. In such case the goals aggregate will be 4-4 and a penalty shootout will decide the winner. Indian men have been poor in shootouts after having recently lost the 2019 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final to South Korea and the 2018 Asian Games semifinal to Malaysia in shootouts.

The women's team, gunning for a third Olympics appearance, however, is in a better position. It has a four-goal advantage after its 5-1 in the first leg against USA. Despite ranked below India, USA has often excelled on the big stage. It has a bronze medal (1984 Olympics) and fifth placed finished at Rio 2016, where India finished at the bottom in 12th. The aim for Indian women will be to outscore their opponent in case of a goal rush in the second leg.