India will aim to qualify for this year’s World Cup when they begin the defence of its title against Chinese Taipei in the Men’s Junior Asia Cup here on Wednesday.
The tournament, while being a platform for young players in the continent to showcase their skills, is also important as the top-three finishers will qualify for the Junior World Cup, scheduled in Malaysia in December this year.
India is the most successful side in the event alongside Pakistan with both countries having lifted the trophy three times each.
India has been grouped in Pool A along with Pakistan, Japan, Thailand and Chinese Taipei, while Pool B comprises hosts Oman, Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.
Captain Uttam Singh said playing against the senior India team in Bengaluru had prepared them well for the tournament.
“Junior Asia Cup is a big opportunity for us to prove our mettle and implement everything that we have worked on during training sessions.
“Given the good international exposure that we have gained in the last couple of years and the recent practice sessions that we had in SAI Centre, Bengaluru, where we also played against the senior team to hone our skills, we can say that we are well prepared to defend the title,” said Singh in a Hockey India press release on Tuesday.
India vice-captain Boby Singh Dhami said the title triumph at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year was a huge morale booster for the side coming into the tournament.
“With the World Cup spots up for grabs, we are aiming to give our all on the field. The victory at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year has proven to be a big confidence booster for us. I believe we are capable of beating any team in the tournament,” said Dhami.
As per the tournament format, the top-two teams from each pool will qualify for the semi-finals. The two finalists and the bronze medallist will qualify for the Junior World Cup in Malaysia.
However, if Malaysia, which has already qualified for the prestigious quadrennial event by virtue of being the hosts, enters the semi-finals of the Junior Asia Cup, then all the other three teams making it to the last-four of the tournament will gain entry into the marquee event in December.
India will play its second Pool game against Japan on May 25, followed by the match against Pakistan on May 27. It will play its last pool game against Thailand on May 28.
The final will be played on June 1.
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