India may face Pakistan in 2020 Tokyo Olympics hockey qualifiers
India men, ranked fifth in the world, are seeded third and will face a team seeded between 12th and 14th. Pakistan are currently 12th among the 14 teams in fray for an Olympic berthUpdated: Aug 30, 2019 09:33 IST
The Indian men’s hockey team could face arch-rivals Pakistan at home for a 2020 Tokyo Olympics berth as both teams were seeded in two separate halves of the draw by international hockey federation (FIH) on Thursday. It could be an interesting match-up considering the current difficult diplomatic relations between the two neighbours.
Importantly, both the Indian men’s and women’s teams will play their respective two-match Olympic Qualifiers at home. The match-ups and schedule will be decided after the draw on September 9 in Lausanne, the FIH announced.
India men, ranked fifth in the world, are seeded third and will face a team seeded between 12th and 14th. Pakistan are currently 12th among the 14 teams in fray and were included after they paid a hefty fine imposed by FIH for pulling out of the Pro League at the last minute.
Of the 14 in fray, teams ranked one, two and three will host a team from among those placed 12th, 13th and 14th. Teams will be randomly picked from the lots to decide the matchups. However, the seedings are tentative and are subject to change in rankings which will be finalised on September 8.
Though India are seeded third, they are likely to go up to second if Australia (seeded 1) beat New Zealand (seeded 7) in the Oceania Cup, scheduled in Rockhampton, Australia from September 5-8.
In the men’s section, Australia have never lost to New Zealand in the Oceania Cup and thus are favourites to seal a direct berth to Tokyo. Even if New Zealand cause a tectonic shift in the Oceania Cup by beating Australia, India will remain among the top three and the possibility of a match-up with Pakistan remains alive.
The teams ranked fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh will be drawn at random to play at home against one of the teams ranked eighth, ninth, 10th or 11th.
India women, seeded seventh (and likely to go up to sixth after Oceania Cup) will face a tough opponent from among South Korea, Belgium, USA or Canada.
Each qualifier will feature two nations playing two back-to-back matches with teams drawn to play each other based on their rankings. The matches will be hosted by the higher ranked of the two competing teams either between October 25-27 or November 1-3.
The FIH named 15 nations for both the men’s and women’s sections, 14 of which will figure in the qualifiers. The winner of the series of matches between two countries will gain a direct berth to Tokyo 2020.
In the men’s section, the winners will join hosts and Asian Games champions Japan, World Cup winners Belgium, defending Olympic champions Argentina and African champions South Africa while hosts Japan, Netherlands, Argentina and South Africa have clinched direct berths to Tokyo in the women’s section.
Seven teams from the Olympic qualifiers in each section will join them to make up the field of 12 teams that will battle for top honours at the Oi Olympic Hockey Stadium from July 25 to August 7, 2020.
The Indian men’s and women’s teams made the grade for the qualifiers via their respective FIH Series Finals recently and are likely to play their matches in Bhubaneswar in the November 1-3 window.