Aug 19, 2018

Asian Games 2018 Contenders: India

Comeback man Rupinder Pal

After finishing second under the leadership of Harendra Singh in the recently concluded Champions Trophy, Indian hockey team will enter Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex as favorites to win Gold in Asian Games 2018 and thereby become the first team to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. India are the defending champions of the tournament and will be looking to win Gold medal for the 4th time.


India along with Pakistan has made it to the Asian Games podium most number of times wins with 14 medals in 15 editions of the tournament, but India has only won the Gold medal 3 times. India has won 9 silver medals and 1 bronze (2010 Asian Games). 
Interestingly all of India’s Gold medal wins have come post regulation time. In 1966 Asian Games, Balbir Singh scored a goal in extra time to grab 1-0 win against Pakistan. In 1998 Asian Games, India beat Korea in penalty strokes thanks to heroics from goalkeeper Ashish Ballal while in 2014 Asian Games India beat arch-rivals Pakistan via penalty shootouts.


When compared to other participating teams in the Asian Games, Indian women team is in red hot form after their success in Champions Trophy. India finished second in the Asian Games, scoring 10 goals in the tournament but conceded only 6 goals (least when compared to all other participating teams). After the success of Champions Trophy, Indian team played a three match test match series that marked return of penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh. 

India beat New Zealand in all three matches played scoring 11 goals and conceding just three goals. Rupinder Pal Singh who made his comeback after an injury scored 4 goals in three matches.

Indian team coach Harendra Singh and captain Sreejesh are both confident of India’s chances in the Asian Games. Before the tournament started, coach Harendra Singh said- 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,” 

While captain Sreejesh said, that the team is favorites to win the Asian Games.

We spoke to journalist Mihir Vasavda (@mihirsv) of Indian express about India’s chances in the Asian Games and he had to say this


It'd be very, very disappointing if both teams (men and women) return without gold. It'll be interesting to see how the men's team handle the pressure of going into a tournament of high stakes as favorites - in 2014 they weren't so far ahead of rest of Asia as they are today. So it'll take extraordinary level of choking for them to not win the gold medal, because quality wise, we all know India are far better than the other Asian teams.


Key players in the men's team remain the same - Sreejesh, Manpreet, Sardar, Sunil, etc. But I am more interested in seeing how the rest perform - Amit, in my opinion, had an average CWG so he has a chance to make amends and so did Akashdeep. Harmanpreet Singh's penalty corner conversion rate, Mandeep's field goal conversion are the other factors I am keen to see ahead of the World Cup. Also, this will be crucial for Lalit to show if he can hang on to his place for the World Cup. Equally important is Krishan Pathak as back up to Sreejesh. So it'll be all these things, instead of just the three-four usual players.


In the men's side, India pose a challenge to themselves more than other teams proving to be a hurdle for them. If they keep their calm and execute the plans without doubting themselves, like they did at CWG, I think they should be fine. Malaysia and South Korea are tricky teams, though.

GOLD: India
SILVER: South Korea
BRONZE: Pakistan

Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh (C), Krishan B Pathak
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar, Rupinder Pal Singh, Amit Rohidas
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh (VC), Simranjeet Singh, Sardar Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad
Forwards: S V Sunil, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Dilpreet Singh

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