The final two remaining teams, Japan Women’s Hockey Team and New Zealand Women’s Hockey Team arrived here for the highly-anticipated FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Ranchi 2024.
While Japan, placed in Pool A, will begin their campaign against Czech Republic on January 13, New Zealand, placed in Pool B, will take on Italy in their first game on the same day.
Japan will face off against Germany on January 14 and Chile on January 16, while New Zealand will compete against India on January 14 and the United States on January 16 in their final two Pool games.
With only the top three teams set to book a spot for the Paris Olympics, both sides are expecting tough competition in the upcoming tournament. But having recently competed at the Jharkhand Women’s Asian Champions Trophy Ranchi 2023 at the same venue, the World No. 11 Japan may have an edge over the other teams in the fray.
Upon arriving here on Sunday again in the short span of time, Japan Captain Yuri Nagai said, “Returning to Ranchi is a pleasure for us. Among the Asian representatives, Japan and India are the sole contenders in this tournament. We hold optimistic expectations for both nations’ performances, aiming for success in this event.”
Further talking about their squad selection for the tournament, Nagai said, “Following our defeat in the Jharkhand Women’s Asian Champions Trophy 2023 Final against India, we organized several training camps. As a result, we’ve made a few changes in our squad based on those sessions.”
Coach Jude Menezes shed light on Japan’s tournament strategy, stating, “The competition ahead poses a formidable challenge with several strong teams in our group. However, our sole focus is on triumphing over every opponent in the quest for Olympic qualification. Regardless of our competitors, we’ll approach each match individually and assess our progress step by step.”
He emphasized, “In a competition of this nature, world rankings hold little significance as it all boils down to the team’s performance on the given day. The Ranchi pitch presents its challenges, but our prior experience here grants us an edge over most of our opponents.”
For the World No. 11 New Zealand, this is the first visit to India and the Black Sticks find themselves in a tricky group with the hosts.
New Zealand Captain Olivia Merry opened up on the team’s preparedness and the upcoming challenge of facing off against India in an unfamiliar territory.
“India poses a formidable challenge for us; their history and gameplay make them a tough opponent to overcome. The teams in our Pool present similar challenges, demanding our best performance. Our primary objective is securing the top spot in our Pool to ensure a place in the Semi-Finals,” Merry remarked confidently.
“Our team holds a strong belief and enters this tournament with a great sense of confidence and readiness,” she added.
Also, New Zealand Head Coach Phil Burrows gave an assessment of the squad and insisted his team might pack a surprise or two in the upcoming tournament.
“Our preparations have been thorough, having faced off against the USA and Malaysia before entering this tournament. As we gear up for the Olympic qualifiers, our focus now shifts to the upcoming practice match against Chile and the crucial opening encounter against Italy,” he concluded optimistically.”