Need to get over World Cup disappointment and focus on Olympics: Manpreet

Frequent chopping and changing marked an unfulfilled year, which saw India stuttering in all the three big-ticket events — the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the World Cup.

“We have a good setup, very talented pool of players with good international experience. We just need to remain focused," said Manpreet Singh.   -  BISWARANJAN ROUT

India needs to get over the disappointment of a quarterfinal exit from the men’s hockey World Cup and focus on the challenge of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said skipper Manpreet Singh Saturday.

India started 2018 ranked sixth in the world, and ended the year fifth. Frequent chopping and changing marked an unfulfilled year, which saw the side stuttering in all the three big-ticket events — the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the World Cup.

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Topsy-turvy year

The men’s team will begin the new season with the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia in March while also preparing for the Olympic Qualifiers.

“It is now important for us to move on from the disappointments of 2018. There are always lessons we learn from every tournament we play regardless of how the result went and this time too, we will meet as a unit when we report for the National Camp in February and discuss on the areas that need improvement,” Manpreet said.

India was expected to defend its Asian Games title in Jakarta, thereby directly qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but the Harendra Singh coached unit had to be content with bronze.

With the FIH Series Finals in June to be held in Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium, the team’s main focus for the year will be to win an Olympic Qualification.

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“The road to 2020 Olympic Games will be challenging and surely the ideal way to qualify would have been winning the Asian Games as we did in 2014. But that should not be a deterrent to our motivation,” he said.

“We have a good setup, very talented pool of players with good international experience. We just need to remain focused.”

The men’s team finished fourth at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and exited the World Cup in  Bhubaneswar after a close 1-2 loss in the quarterfinals against The Netherlands.

The silver lining, though, was a gold medal at the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat where it split the title with Pakistan and remained unbeaten in the tournament.

The silver medal at the FIH Champions Trophy in Breda earlier in the year had helped the team improve its world ranking.

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Squandering home advantage

While it has been a little over two weeks since Belgium was crowned new World Champion after it beat the Netherlands in a tense shootout, Manpreet regrets not making use of the home support to reach the final four.

“What Belgium has achieved over the years is quite remarkable and my hearty congratulations to them for winning the World title. As far as our performance is concerned, we (Indian team) are obviously disappointed and regret not using the home support to our advantage,” he said.

“We had topped the Pool and were very positive going into the quarterfinal against the Netherlands. It was a close match and though personally, I am very disappointed we lost in the quarterfinal, but I am proud of my team. We gave our best particularly the youngsters who were playing the World Cup for the first time.”

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The midfielder, however, said the exposure at the event in Bhubaneswar will stand the youngsters in good stead.

“We had a few players from the junior set-up who have been part of the senior core group for about two years. I am sure the exposure they gained at the Hockey World Cup will help them improve further,” Manpreet added.