Salalah [Oman], May 23(ANI): Indian Junior Men's Hockey team is all geared up for the Men's Junior Asia Cup 2023 in Salalah, Oman, which is set to commence from May 23. The final of the tournament will be played on June 1.
The tournament will not only serve as a platform for the young players in Asia to display their skills, but it will also be crucial as the top three finishers in the Men's Junior Asia Cup 2023 will qualify for the FIH Junior Hockey Men's World Cup 2023, which is set to be played in Malaysia in December this year.
The Indian team, which will be captained by Uttam Singh, will enter the tournament as defending Champions and are also the most successful team in the title event alongside Pakistan as both sides have won the Men's Junior Asia Cup three times each.
Notably, the Men's Junior Asia Cup 2023 will see 10 participating teams that have been split into two pools. India has been grouped in pool A of the tournament along with nemesis Pakistan, Japan, Thailand and, Chinese Taipei, while pool B consists of hosts Oman, Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, the Indian team captain Uttam Singh said, "Junior Asia Cup is a big opportunity for us to prove our mettle and implement everything that we have worked on during training sessions. Given the good international exposure that we have gained in the last couple of years and the recent practice sessions that we had in SAI Centre, Bengaluru, where we also played against the Senior Team to hone our skills, we can say that we are well prepared to defend the title."Meanwhile, the team's Vice Captain Boby Singh Dhami said that the side is not only excited to play against the best young teams in Asia, but it's also pumped up after winning the Sultan of Johor Cup last year.
"We are looking forward to test our skills against some of the top teams in Asia and with the World Cup spots up for grabs, we are aiming to give our all on the field. Also, the victory at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year has proven to be a big confidence booster for us and the energy in the team since then has been soaring. I believe that we are capable of beating any team in the tournament and make our nation proud by clinching Gold Medal," Dhami said.
As per the tournament format, each team in the pool stage will play the other four teams in their pool once and the top two teams in both pools will qualify for the semifinals. The two finalists and the Bronze Medallist, who will be decided by a match between the losing Semi-Finalists, will qualify for the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup 2023.
However, if Malaysia, who has already qualified for the prestigious quadrennial event by the virtue of being the hosts, enter the Semi-Finals of the Men's Junior Asia Cup 2023, then all the other three teams making it to the last-four of the tournament will gain entry into the marquee event in December.
India will open their Men's Junior Asia Cup 2023 campaign against Chinese Taipei on May 24, while on May 25 they will take on Japan. The Uttam Singh-led team will then lock horns with Pakistan on May 27 before playing against Thailand in their last pool game on May 28.(ANI)