Manpreet: ‘Retaining No.1 status in Asia is top priority’

India will go into the Asia Cup as the top ranked team and will take on Japan, Bangladesh and Pakistan in its Pool A matches to qualify for the Super 4s stage.

Midfielder Manpreet Singh will be leading the 18-member Indian men’s hockey team at the Hero Asia Cup.   -  GETTY IMAGES

India hockey skipper Manpreet Singh said his team will look to retain its No.1 status in Asia when it opens its campaign against Japan in the Hero Asia Cup 2017 on October 11. India will go into the tournament as the top ranked team and will take on Japan, Bangladesh and Pakistan in its Pool A matches to qualify for the Super 4s stage.

After a six-week national camp under the guidance of Hockey India’s High-Performance Director David John and newly-appointed Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne, the 18-member squad is well-prepared to vie for top honours.

READ: Marijne's men eager to clinch Asia Cup

“We are aware that we go into this tournament as the highest ranked team and we aim to keep up the No.1 status,” 25-year-old Manpreet said ahead of the team’s departure for Dhaka in the early hours on Sunday.

“However, every team will come with the intention to win the title so we can’t take any team lightly thinking they are ranked lower than us.”

The team also clocked in some good practice matches against the Indian Army squad over the last week to ensure a well-rounded preparation. “We have trained well in the lead up to the tournament. Our new coach Sjoerd is happy with our structure and style of play, so he has not tried to change too many aspects,” Manpreet said.

“We believe while we play teams like Japan, Bangladesh or even Pakistan, we just need to stick to our basics and play simple hockey.”

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After beating its arch-rivals twice during the Hero Hockey World League Semi Final in June this year, India will again meet Pakistan in its third Pool A match on October 15 in a much-anticipated encounter. “Yes there will always be anticipation and excitement for the lovers of the sport to watch an India Vs Pakistan match. But for us, the aim is simple — beat every team in our pool and make it to the next stage,” Manpreet said.

On October 11, India will take on Japan in its first match.

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