Focus to be on Asian Games during European leg of Hockey Pro League: Harmanpreet

Bengaluru,22 May (PTI): India men’s hockey team captain Harmanpreet Singh says his side’s focus will be on Asian Games, an Olympic-qualifier, as they embark on the European tour for Pro League matches, starting May 26.
The team left for London on Monday for the first leg of the European tour where it will face reigning Olympic champions Belgium (May 26 and June 2) and hosts Great Britain (May 27 and June 3).
They will then travel to Eindhoven for their last set of matches against the Netherlands (June 7 and 10) and Argentina (June 8 and 11).
India are currently leading the Pro League table with 19 points from eight matches in the nine-team tournament. United Kingdom too have an identical number of points but are second on the table due to an inferior goal difference.
The skipper said the matches will play a crucial role in India’s preparation for the Asian Games in September, where the gold medallist will automatically qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
”We have very crucial matches coming up as we get to the business end of the Pro League season. We are in a strong position in the table so far and we will look to get as many points as possible in the remaining matches. ”We are excited about this tour as it also gives us a great opportunity to play against quality teams. These matches will be really important for us as we prepare for the all-important Asian Games scheduled later this year,” said Harmanpreet before the team’s departure to London.
India remained unbeaten against reigning world champions Germany and Australia, which helped them top the points table.
This will be the team’s first outing under new chief coach Craig Fulton.
”We have had good intensive training sessions at the national coaching camp in SAI centre, Bengaluru. The preparations have been really good, and our previous matches in Rourkela were a big confidence booster for us, so we will look to replicate the performance in the upcoming matches,” the skipper said.
Harmanpreet added the team will look to build on the good work done in the home leg to prepare for the tough assignments later this year.
”We will go step-by-step, try to play good hockey and most importantly look to keep the momentum going as we have a long tour and a busy season ahead as well.”