2018 Asian Men's Hockey Champions Trophy: Will the Indian Hockey Team be able to defend its title?
The fifth edition of the Men's Asian Champions Trophy Hockey will be held in Muscat, Oman from 18th of October 2018 till 28th of October 2018. It is an event which has been organised by the Asian Hockey Federation and began in 2011.
This year's tournament will feature the top six teams of Asia, i.e. Japan, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, South Korea and hosts Oman. They will be competing against each other in a round robin format. After the round robin games, the top four teams will qualify for the semifinals, and then the winners of the two semifinals will be playing the Finals.
India and Pakistan are the two most successful teams in the history of Asian Hockey Champions Trophy. Both of them have won this trophy twice.
In the last edition, in 2016, India won the tournament by beating their arch-rivals Pakistan, by a margin of 3-2 goals, in the finals.
India's chances in this tournament
India will start the tournament as favourites, as they are the highest ranked of the six participating teams. However, after their shock defeat at the hands of the Malaysian team in the recently concluded Asian Games, India has to be very careful.
None of the five other teams in the tournament will be pushovers. Oman, the lowest ranked team in the tournament, will have the home advantage and hence might cause a surprise or two.
Japan, who have been recently crowned the Asian champions in men's hockey, will be a very tough team to beat. They have played excellent hockey in the recently concluded Asian Games, to beat world class teams like Pakistan and Malaysia and be the champions.
The other three teams in the tournament, are the three traditional powerhouses of Asian Hockey, i.e. Pakistan, Malaysia and South Korea.
India will be starting their campaign against the hosts, Oman on the 18th of October. Then on the 20th of October, they will be facing Pakistan. In their 3rd and 4th matches of the round robin stage, India will be facing Asian Champions Japan and South Korea respectively.
India, at present, is one of the strongest teams in the world. At every position, they have world class players. P Sreejesh, the captain of the side, is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. In defence, India have experienced players like Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas and Rupinder Pal Singh.
After Sardar Singh's retirement, the midfield will be led by Manpreet Singh, who will be a key player for the side. With him, Manpreet will have the experienced Chinglensana and talented youngster Simranjeet Singh.
The Indian forward line also has a good mix of experience and youth, with SV Sunil, Akashdeep and Dilpreet Singh in the mix. If India has to win the tournament, the drag flickers, Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, need to be in good form.
Being one of the strongest team in the competition, India is expected to be in the top four, after the round robin games, and be in the semifinals.
However, the most important part for India will be the semi-finals and the finals, which will be the knockout games. They have to hold their nerves and play their best hockey in both these games, in order to come out winners.
After their shock defeat in the Asian Games, the Indian team will be eager to prove a point in this tournament and show the world, that they are the number one team in Asia.
Moreover, before the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneshwar, this tournament will also help the Indian team to get their team combination set.
So the Indian team can be expected to give whatever they have, on the field, in order to defend the title. Whether they will ultimately be able to succeed or not, that only time will tell.