Britain toughest hurdle for India at hockey Olympic qualifiersFebruary 29th, 2008 - 3:02 pm ICT by admin
Santiago (Chile), Feb 29 (IANS) Great Britain will be India’s biggest hurdle in the passage to the Olympic Games. In the second World Hockey Men’s Olympic Qualifiers getting underway in Santiago Saturday, six teams will clash with the champion side earning a ticket to the Beijing Games in August. In the opening clashes Saturday, India will meet Russia, Britain take on Mexico and in the last game Chile meet Austria.
Britain and India, the eighth and ninth ranked teams in the world, are the favourites, but none of the others, including hosts Chile can be underestimated.
Nine teams have already qualified through the Continental Championships last summer and New Zealand beat Argentina with a dramatic golden goal in the final seconds of overtime in the first Olympic qualifier in Auckland.
Both India and Britain are past champions - India eight times and Britain three times - but India have not won a medal since 1980 and Britain have been medal-less since 1988.
Britain, however, may seem to have a better recent record having finished fifth at the World Cup in 2006, where India were 11th.
The last time India met Great Britain, the latter won 3-2 and all the scorers in that match will be seen in action at Santiago.
India, interestingly, have the youngest and yet the most experienced team. With an average age of 23, they also have an average of 88 caps.
Hosts Chile have been very active and they finished third at the last Pan American Games, proving tough opposition for both Canada and Argentina. They are ranked 22nd in the world.
Austria have not been seen at a major world level event for sometime and are ranked 25th but they do have some good results under their belt in indoor hockey.
Mexico, originally a reserve country in the Olympic qualification process, came in following the withdrawal of Egypt, who were ranked 18th in the world and also played the 2004 Games in Athens. The Egyptians are always a tough team to handle. Mexico, however, were third at the 2005 Junior Pan American Championships and very uniquely have two women coaches.
Russia came in late due to the withdrawal of Bangladesh and are ranked 45th, though they played at 1992 Games in Barcelona.
The games will be played at the brand new pitch at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago.
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