India will hunt for gold in Asia Cup hockey: Coach (Lead)

May 3rd, 2009 - 9:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) High on confidence after their Azlan Shah victory, the Indian hockey team will settle for nothing less than the gold medal in the Asia Cup, starting May 9 in Kuantan, Malaysia, coach Harendra Singh said Sunday.
India are the defending champions, having won the title in 2007 at home. But since then they have gone through a long form slump and only picked up pace this year with couple of good performances.

The Indian team, on a comeback trail, finished runner-up in four-nation Punjab Gold Cup and followed-up with the Azlan Shah victory last month after a lapse of 13 years.

Harendra said that winning the gold in Asia Cup will complete the first phase of their revival plans for Indian hockey.

“We are successfully working towards our plan to revive Indian hockey. Asia Cup victory is crucial to that plan,” Harendra told IANS before the team left for Malaysia.

“We are the defending champions and we will be satisfied with nothing less than the gold. The team has worked very hard in past couple of months and the boys are upbeat about their performance,” Harendra said.

“Everything has gone according to the plan of reaching among the top six nations by the end of this year. Asia Cup gold will complete the first phase of our revival plan.”

India have been clubbed alongside Pakistan, India, China and Bangladesh in Pool B.

Pool A consists of Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

“The competition will be tough. We have to be consistent throughout the tournament. We will take one match at a time,” Harendra said.

“If we win the Asia Cup, we will get a push in the world ranking and that will be our motivation. There will be a long break after the Asia Cup, so we want to give our best and return with the trophy,” Harendra added.

Asia Cup will be a bigger test for the team because the field in Azlan Shah was not so strong with top European nations staying away.

The habit of conceding late goals haunted India in Azlan Shah and it was one of the areas the team has worked during their training in Bhopal.

“We focussed on our weaknesses during the practice and we are confident that we will be eradicate them in Asia Cup.”

Harendra said forward Gurvinder Singh Chandi will not travel with the team as he had injured himself in the practice.

Sarwanjeet Singh or Bharat Chikara is expected to take his place.

India’s newly-appointed chief coach Spaniard Jose Brasa is expected to join the team during the tournament.

India won the championship in Chennai in 2007, beating South Korea in the final.

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