World no.5 India gears up to take on lowly Russia, ranked 22nd, in a two-match final Olympic qualifier on Friday and Saturday, in India’s hockey mecca- Odisha.
Against Russia, India will start as clear favourites to win both the matches and seal their place in next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympic berth from here will be decided on the basis of aggregate scores at the end of the two-match qualifier.
In the event of same aggregate score after two encounters, the winner will be decided by shoot-out on Saturday.
Russia head coach Vladimir Konkin promises to give the eight-time Olympic champions a tough fight in the two-match contest irrespective of their position in world rankings.
“India is one of the strongest international teams in the world. They are eight-time Olympic champions, so right now we are far behind them. But we hope for better results,” he said via an interpreter.
“In FIH (International Hockey Federation) rankings we are in 22nd place right now but in our heart we know we are quite higher. So for us it is a great opportunity to prove ourselves against a tough team like India.
“I promise you we came here to fight and it would be a good battle,” Konkin added.