The Indian men’s hockey team will be led by Punjab lad Manpreet Singh at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2020. The 16-member squad along with three reserves would be boarding the flight to Tokyo in a few days.
After finishing 12th and 8th in London and Rio respectively, the Indian Men’s hockey team has an aim of making a podium finish in Tokyo. The squad looks settled with 10 youngsters who will be making their debut at the Olympics.
Winning a medal in the biggest sporting extravaganza is something the Indian Men’s hockey team hasn’t done in the last 41 years. Can they break the jinx this time? What does India’s group look like? Who would be their biggest competitor at the games?
Indian Men's hockey team projected path to the final at Tokyo Olympics 2020
Game 1 – vs New Zealand (24th July)
Currently placed eighth in the FIH World Rankings table, NZ shouldn’t be any threat to the Indian Men’s hockey team seeing the form they are in. India, currently ranked fourth, has played NZ seven times in the Olympics and has won four of them while losing three.
NZ is going in with a relatively inexperienced team who haven’t played major tournaments. Blair Tarrant, who has played over 200 matches for the Black Caps, will be looking to create some magic with his stick.
If the Indian Men’s hockey team just plays according to their potential without trying anything extraordinary, they should win this match handedly.
Game 2 – vs Australia (25th July)
India might get to settle their team in the match against the Blackcaps. With not a very tough opponent, they can easily set themselves to fight against the World No. 1 Australia.
Graham Reid’s boys’ performance isn’t very inspiring at the Olympics against the Kookaburras. They have won just three and drawn two, out of ten matches at the games.
Australia are going in with a very tough team which will see co-captain Eddie Ockenden play his fourth Olympics. Their confidence level will be sky-high after clean sweeping New Zealand 4-0 just before the Olympics.
The Kookaburras’ Olympic medal cabinet comprises one gold, three silver and five bronze medals, the last of which came when the team claimed bronze at the 2012 London Games. After missing out on the podium in Rio, they will be hungry to make this Olympics count.
This might be one of India’s toughest matches in Tokyo. A good performance from the boys might see them through against the yellow jerseys.
Game 3 – vs Spain (27th July)
The Spaniards have regularly produced sides that are capable of fighting for the biggest honors in the game, a fact proven by five silver medals at Olympic or World Cup level, not to mention two European championships and a Champions Trophy title.
But of late, they have struggled to put up quality performances. As records say, India has always been heavy on Spain as they have won 6 matches out of 9 in the Olympics.
Should it not be a bad day for the Indian Men’s hockey team, they should be able to easily beat the World No.9.
Game 4 – vs Argentina (29th July)
The defending champions are currently ranked seventh. The fun fact is they were also ranked seventh when they won gold in Rio. India has won seven out of ten matches against Argentina at the Olympics.
The boys in blue last played against them in the FIH Pro League and defeated the Argentines in both matches. It won’t be a daunting task for the Indian Men’s hockey team to defeat a team that hasn’t shown any spark in the last few years. Let’s not forget they lost to minnows France in the Hockey World Cup in 2018.
Game 5 – vs Japan (30th July)
If the Indian men’s hockey team won all four matches, they would have already qualified for the quarterfinals. India has never lost to Japan in the Olympics, and with their current form, we shouldn’t see the pattern changing and going Japan’s way. Ranked eleven places below India, this win will see the Indian men finishing at the top of Group A.
Potential quarterfinalists – Great Britain
If India finishes at the top of Group A, they would play the team that finishes fourth in Group B. Seeing the other group, we can see Canada and South Africa not making the quarters, with Great Britain finishing fourth in the group.
This should be a do-or-die match for India and they will have nothing to lose. After defeating World No.1 Australia, any opponent in front of them won’t be tough.
GBR, placed sixth, will be tough competition for India but seeing the current form the Indian men's hockey team is in, this should see them make the semis for the first time in 41 years.
Potential Semifinalists – Belgium
We can see Belgium and Argentina playing the other quarterfinals, which might well result in the world champions defeating the Olympic champions.
India lost to Belgium in the quarters of Rio 2016 and will be looking to take sweet revenge. In knock-out matches, head-to-head will not have any meaning, as every team will be going all out. On this very day, India will need some luck and if it’s India’s day, we may see them making a podium finish after 4 decades.
Potential Finalists – Netherlands
The Netherlands would be going into the Olympics as the champions of Euros. They will be absolutely high on confidence. It will also be coach Max Caldas’ last tournament with the Orange as he will be heading to Spain to coach them. He will be eager to make this count.
Goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak, the best goalkeeper of the Euros, might be the player who can make things difficult for Indian strikers. Again, the Indian men’s hockey team will have nothing to lose and they will already be assured of a medal. Luck, patience and skills on the day can bring the gold medal back to India.
Prediction for the Indian Men's hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics
Ranked fourth, India should be able to reach the semifinals easily, but it won't be a cakewalk to defeat teams like Netherlands, Australia and Belgium. We expect the Indian men's hockey team to finish third in Tokyo and make a podium finish after 41 years.